Book Review: "A Hymn Before Battle"…

Any negative thoughts regarding John Ringo’s “A Hymn Before Battle” were tempered after I read that Mr. Ringo was a fairly new author. “A Hymn Before Battle Battle” is am extremely well conceived work of military sci-fi that suffers from at best an average execution of the concept.

The concept is a twist on the old first contact with aliens story. Instead of coming to kill us or advance our civilization the aliens in “Battle” need our help. There is a powerful hostile race, the Posleen, running rough shod through the galaxy and the Galactics (as the aliens are called) need the earth’s help to save the galaxy from invasion. In exchange they will share with us some their technology.

The novel has several very positive aspects. The author is a fan of sci-fi and at times in the novel he pays homage to sci-fi and sci-fi novels which is kind of fun. Ringo does a nice job playing with technology and comes up with cool gadgets and weapons, from the AID’s, to the Hyper Velocity Missiles to the Armored Combat Suits. He also creates a compelling character in Michael O’Neal and the story surrounding him is a good one. Lastly, the fact that the story is set in the present time and not in the future lends a little extra something to the book.

Alas “Battle” is not without it’s shortcomings. The major problem is that it is the first in a series and as such elements of the books are incomplete and others seem nothing more than wastes of time (the whole sub plot surrounding Sgt. Pappas is a good example). This is frustrating because it is possible to write a serialized set of novels wherein each novel is complete story in and of itself. Examples of this would be the Mars trilogy written by Kim Stanley Robinson, another is the on-going Star Wars: New Jedi Order series. Another issue is that “Battle” is not as compelling or as exciting as it might be given the premise.

That being said like look forward to reading the second book in this series called “Gust Front”. The concept, the O’Neal character and Ringo’s technology are enough to bring me back for another.

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