Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'd never heard of this author before, but when I saw a review mentioning "space opera with multiple first-person viewpoints," I decided that sounded right up my alley. I thought enough of this book to pre-order the sequel after I finished, so thank you, whoever steered me in this direction.
This is a treatise not so much on the horrors of war, which we've seen to the point of becoming a cliche, as to the fragility of peace and the never-ending struggle to hold it together. It also explores the burden of guilt, the difficulty of making atonement for one's actions, and if such atonement is ever really attainable. It does this through two characters: the artificially intelligent ex-warship Trouble Dog, who resigned her commission after participating in a massacre (this particular iteration of AI involves "brains in a jar" cloned from the stem cells of dead soldiers, so they think of themselves as male or female), and her captain, Sally Konstanz. Trouble Dog has already made those terrible decisions--by blindly choosing to follow orders--and Sal Konstanz makes them over the course of this book, albeit rather more deliberately.
There's a lot more involved, of course, including a widely settled galaxy with ancient aliens (shades of Andre Norton's Forerunners, one of my favorite SF tropes), planets carved into art objects, and technology beyond anything humans have, which has been asleep for millennia and is now starting to wake up. It's quite a stew, but a thoroughly enjoyable one. And Trouble Dog will both win your heart and kick your butt. Here's to the next book.
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