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    Review of CRUSADE by David Weber (see his webpage) and Steve White


    Baen, March 1992

    The alliance between humans and their cat-like former opponents isn't perfect, but it seems to be working. Working, that is, until starships emerge from a warp point that has resulted in the destruction of every starship that ever entered it. The intruders claim to be human--descendants of a colony ship that fled through the warp point generations before. They fake a willingness to negotiate and destroy the Orion fleet guarding the system. From there, the 'Thebans' attack the humans who, thanks to an agreement reached to head off war against two enemies, become solely responsible for punishing the attackers. Punishing takes second place to surviving, however, as the Thebans trick the human 'Peace Fleet' and virtually destroy it.

    Human politicians overrode military commanders and were responsible for the destrution of the peace fleet but now, their backs to the wall, they call on the military to save them. Led by former admiral and ex-president Anderson, the human spaceyards begin to churn out weapons with which to confront their enemies who, it turns out, turned their first contact with the human colony ship into the basis for their religion--and a need to purify 'Holy Terra.'

    At this point, the war takes a typical David Weber direction (see more reviews of novels by David Weber). The 'goodguys' (humans in this case), unfettered by milksop politicians, are able to gain secret weapons that virtually annilalate the Thebans when they face them. When the Thebans are able to gain an advantage, human superweapons and good luck mean that the badguys (Thebans) take almost as much damage as they deliver (compare any of a number of Haven victories in the Honor Harrington universe). Honor Harrington fans will also be familiar with the types of spacecraft, the missile throw weight statistics, and the evil represented by civilian politicians back home.

    CRUSADE definitely has its redeeming qualities. From a literary perspective, the straightforward writing style used by Weber and co-author Steve White (see more reviews of novels by White) is engaging. First Admiral Lantu of the Thebans is a much-welcomed multidimensional character as he struggles between everything he has been taught and what he has dedicated his life to, and the truth as he discovers it to be.

    I suspect Weber and White meant CRUSADE to contain a political message favorable to conservatives and scornful of liberals in America. If so, the decade since this book was written provide a welcome, if unintended irony. Politicians who lied to lead their country into war (although unintentionally in the case of CRUSADE, are singled out as the worst horrors of all. Hateful bigotry and a wish to simply genocide opposition is also argued against--an increasingly 'liberal' view.

    I prefer military fiction where strategy and tactics play a more important role than superweapons, and where multiple complex characters wrestle with the reality of war--and the difficult and painful decisions that must be made. CRUSADE shows some of these tough decisions (the final decisions of whether to invade the Theban world or simply bombard it to lifelessness had to bring parallels of the decision on bombing Japan, for example). I would have enjoyed it more if it had taken this direction more fully.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 2/10/06

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