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The Tyrant - David Drake & Eric Flint
I'm sure I've read this before ... as I continue reading through it brings up similarities to so many other books - which is really disappointing I find. The best thing (for me) in SciFi (not so much Fantasy) is the originality of the idea and how its put into a new light ... I know, the ravening alien horde is a common theme as is the computer virus/robot army that decides to decimate humanity ... but with those aside, SciFi writers have predicted so many "original" idea's that eventually either came true (or still will come true) or were completely disproved that my enjoyment of the field has not really flagged. However this book and some of the others unfortunately seems to be just a rehash of the same idea in a slightly different veneer, which as I said earlier is disappointing.
In The Tyrant - a disembodied computer (The Center) and Soldier (Raj Whitehall) have inhabited the body of Adrian Gellert. With their knowledge of all of human history (another thing that I disagree with is the automatic assumption that we are doomed to repeat the failures of the past ... I agree with this assuming that all factors are the same, but can that be the case on a different planet with a completely different environment?), its success' and failures, they instruct Adrian in the art and methodology of overthrowing an empire.
Some similar books
Some of the similar books that have featured the same type of story are -
- The Belisarius Series - also by David Drake & Eric Flint (so I guess I shouldn't be expecting too much originality although you'd think that the authors of one series would not repeat the same story with only slight variations!)
- The Safehold Series - by David Weber ... slightly different in that the disembodied computer is actually an embodied android, however aside from that distinction there is a lot of similarity in the fact that android has all the history of mankind at her fingertips and uses it to "bootstrap" a society into the future.
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The Good & The Bad
For me the best part of this book actually wasn't the character of Adrian Gellert at all - rather it was his Father In Law - the titular Tyrant himself the Justicar Verice Demansk. Vernice determines early on in the book that he needs to take apart the Empire that is to build a new and better empire on its ashes. How he does this without the help of Raj/Center is extremely well done and his agony in the death and destruction that this rebuilding causes is very well portrayed.
Some of the other characters in the series (Justicar Verice's daughter for example and also the lady that becomes his eventual wife) are both very well fleshed out and believable in there actions and reactions which is really what you want. While I didn't really care for Adrian himself I really liked almost all the others in the book and while I was annoyed at the similarities to other books - I think that is a fault in myself too as I probably read too much!
A common theme in Military SciFi is battles. Lots of them with lots of details and sometimes soom cool and exotic weaponry or tactics thrown into the mix. A great example for what I'm talking about is the Lost Regiment Series (click to see my review of that book) which has all of the above and more! Unfortunately this wasn't the case here ... there was much too much talking and not enough doing and when there was doing it was almost glossed over as not being important to the story itself.
Also and this is almost inexcusable ... was there really any doubt that the good guys were going to win? I know that seems like a spoiler and I guess to some extent it is but I think after you'd read the first chapter of this book you'd feel the same way. I don't think that a book should necessarily keep you guessing and try to pretend to M. Night Shyamalan & The Sixth Sense but you shouldn't also be able to predict the outcome of everything right from the beginning either.
Final Thoughts & Score
After you read the book itself it comes to light that there was actually a change in author and Eric Flint was working of the notes left by the previous one. This does to some extent excuse some of the detail as his writing itself is actually one of the better parts of the series, it was the story that was too "formulaic".
Character Growth & Development - 2/5
Some of the characters are enjoyable and help to drive the story along. Others are just annoying and really take away from the overall story. As stated earlier though, the biggest fault is the lack of originality.
Story Growth & Development - 2/5
The Tyrant himself was a good character and his storyline was well done ... but aside from that it was obvious from the get go that the good guys would win.
Overall Rating - 4/10
A bit less than average and really the only thing that brought it up this far is the writing style of Flint which is really good and enjoyable. This could have been so much more and I only wish that it had been.