|About the Book|
There is a story behind this review. Nearly two years ago, I read and reviewed one of AJ Marshalls earlier books. I gave it a measly two stars despite enjoying it. The reasons are outlined in the review - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/76...In summary, it was a romp but it was all over the place. Despite that, I found myself liking the author and said so, but I said I would not be reading another of his works, despite wishing him well.Late last year, the author contacted me. In what must amount to one of the nicest responses from an author to a very critical review, he urged me to try again with Rogue Command. The note was so pleasant that it would have been churlish of me not to do so.This put me in a quandary. I had committed to a review but if it was like the previous book, I would have had to say so. I do not like kicking a man once, let alone twice, but honesty in these matters is a matter of honour.Fortunately, he had good reason to ask me to take another look because he has not only worked immensely hard at the next book but he has clearly listened to constructive criticism from many sources.Now this is not Tolstoy and, yes, it still inhabits a world that is scarcely believable strategically but, tactically, the book is highly believable in characterisation and in its rather magnificent and cinematic set pieces, of which there are many.This is a blockbuster at 730 pages. It still has some of the structural flaws of the earlier work. Marshall appears to have been stuck with a grand schema laid out many moons ago. Perhaps this magnificent idea has been his undoing as far too complex to manage.The best way to enjoy this book is to take the inherited thriller and fantasy story-line as read and then enjoy what he has done with it in the conclusion of the series. He has allowed the story to present what amounts to a series of set-piece novella which are each totally absorbing.Without indulging in spoilers, three stand out – the journey of a vehicle across Martian territory to explore a pyramid and uncover secrets worthy of Arthur C. Clarke, a time-travelling trip to an Atlantean past and a space battle on the moon of truly epic proportions.It is as if he has been learning his craft by simple and determined diligence in the full gaze of the public, making mistakes as he goes along - a rather brave approach, to say the least. Clearly, I want to be on his side for that reason alone. He is no coward.So, this novel is still an enjoyable romp even if it still has issues with credibility (not that this should matter too much in science fiction), trying to do too much and some minor plot incoherence but the strides forward in characterization and description are truly impressive.It seems that he is producing a new series about ‘lumans’ (the first humans born on the moon) where he ambitiously looks as if he is going to deal with some bigger issues of death and loss. Without an excessively overblown plot-line, perhaps he can now play to his strengths.Cleared of having to produce a space opera with Dan Brown conspiracy and Fleming-like thriller elements, let alone an environmental apocalypse (after all, even Tim Powers restricted himself to merging Lovecraft and Le Carre in ‘Declare), this new work sounds as if it has potential.I shall keep an open mind but I can recommend Rogue Command not just for its exuberance and ambition but for some fine descriptive writing that brings back nostalgia for the golden age of British literary science fiction even if the whole remains less than the sum of its best parts.