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    Review of IN DEATH GROUND by David Weber (see his webpage) and Steve White


    Baen, 1997

    An exploration ship stumbles into an inhabited system. Rather than make contact, the inhabitants attack--and continue the attack into human-inhabited systems. With only a tiny fleet, the humans call for help from their homeland, and from their allies. Although they repeatedly do far more damage to the attackers than is done to them they are gradually forced back--and then the ultimate horror--the invaders turn out to be bug-like creatures who eat the people left behind on inhabited planets.

    Clearly people-eating bugs must be exterminated, but the bugs seem to have enormous resources. They continue attacking even when it is clear that they're flying into destruction. Any number of no-survivors battles should leave them looking for a way to back out of the war they started, but the bugs must not think that way.

    Humans and their allies continue exploring--this time, though, the bugs follow an allied scout back to a home planet of the 'Tabbies.' They kill millions--but the timely arrival of human resources and skillful fighter flying by the tabbies manages to roll back this attack. But the ultimate danger comes when the bugs find a hidden warp point in the alpha centari system--home to billions of humans and only one step from Earth itself. Good luck and skill defeat the bug probe--and counterattack seems both possible and necessary. But could the bugs be setting a trap?

    Authors David Weber and Steve White continue their STARS AT WAR series with a purely military story. Huge ships battle across space. The bugs are quickly relegated to the status of evil (they eat people, after all), so there are no moral issues to worry about. With the great President Emeritus Anderson long-dead (see our review of CRUSADE), all politicians are stupid. Still, although they do nothing to advance the plot, there are politicians in the story--set there to say stupid things that sound vaguely like something an American liberal (pause to spit here) would say. Clearly they are stupid but they can't be genocided--not, at least, until the bugs are taken care of.

    I thought that Anderson's moral issues with the proposed genocide (exocide) of an entire species was the high point of CRUSADE, the earlier novel in this series. Perhaps conservative readers gave Weber and White a hard time about going soft because there definitely were no moral discussions here. It was completely kill, kill, kill.

    IN DEATH GROUND is well enough written to sustain reader interest, but the plot line is simplistic, with the usual mix of 'badguys attack in overwhelming force, but are nevertheless completely wiped out' with 'badguys get the jump on our heroes but, due to our heroes brilliance, their trap backfires and (thanks to heroic sacrifice on the part of our heroes), they are virtually wiped out.

    If you want to read about fighting against overwhelming bugs, read ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card. If you want to read more nuanced military adventure, Weber's early Honor Harrington stories would be a better answer. Despite capable writing, I simply can't recommend IN DEATH GROUND.

    One Star

    Reviewed 2/16/06

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