Culture

Book Review: Into the Hinterlands

hinterlandsJust finished reading the Baen eARC (Electronic Advance Reader Copy, the unproofed manuscript) for Into the Hinterlands by David Drake and Jon Lambshead. It’s the beginning of a new series with an interesting premise.

The book follows Allen Allenson, a gentleman of middling rank, and his friends Royman Destry, a gentleman of somewhat greater rank, and Jem Hawthorn, a gentleman of rank similar to Allenson, but who is a bit more practical and less refined.

The distinctions are important because, like many of Drake’s novels, the society is somewhat modeled after Napoleonic War-era Britain.

Allenson, Destry and Hawthorn, then are more or less colonial aristocracy in an area known as “The Cutter Stream,” an area claimed by one of the two major human powers, Brasilia. Not on Earth mind, but a former colony world. Terra is the other.

When Allenson’s older brother dies, he finds himself compelled to take up the mantle of “Inspector General of Cutter Stream Militia,” despite never having been in the military, as the book moves on, Allenson finds himself, much to his own surprise, a bit of a hero.

The series appears prepared, as good science fiction often will, to take a hard look at how we see ourselves and how we handle having our societal assumptions shattered.

None of the three friends, or for that matter any of the sundry “gentlefolk” we meet, really give a thought to the feelings or attitudes of the “lower orders.” Moreover, while the colonies are inextricably bound to their home worlds, Allenson is early on, beginning to question the attitude that the only purpose for a colony is to benefit the homeworlds — and that once it’s served it’s purpose it can be tossed away.

It would appear the Navigation Acts have been recreated — down to taxes on tea — and Allenson reminds one in someways of a more active, personable John Adams. It doesn’t take a genius to see there’s a revolution brewing in the future.

For all the political and historic undercurrent, like any book with Drake’s name on it, there’s a whacking good story underneath and more action than one would think could be fitted into any one book.

I highly recommend Into the Hinterlands, for any David Drake fan. Available as an e-book from Baen’s Webscriptions only right now for $15. Publication is slated for Sept. 1, 2011.