Book Review – First Contact

firstcontactFirst Contact

Author: Michael R. Hicks

Series: In Her Name: The Last War #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Published 2009

Review Copy: Free eBook

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Goodreads Description

The Terran survey ship Aurora makes a startling discovery in an uncharted star system: two planets inhabited by an advanced, and decidedly unfriendly, non-human civilization. Disabled by gigantic alien warships before it can escape, the Aurora is boarded by nightmarish blue-skinned warriors with claws and fangs who slaughter the crew in ritual combat using primitive weapons. The sole survivor, Midshipman Ichiro Sato, is returned to Earth as a messenger bearing a device that warns of an impending attack.

For that is the way of the Kreelan Empire, which has waged war against countless civilizations across the stars in its quest for a savior, one not of their own blood, foretold in an ages-old prophecy. With only a few generations left before their ancient species faces extinction, the Kreelans will wage their last war against humanity, hoping against hope for redemption of sins long past.

Review

First Contact by Michael R. Hicks is the first book in the trilogy In Her Name: The Last War, though this is also part of a larger nine book (currently) In Her Name series.  It’s not the first published, but it is the first chronologically in the battle with Earth.  This is a military space opera sci-fi that grabbed my attention a couple years ago, and what I saw promised me an epic space-based adventure.  I wasn’t disappointed.

It opens in deep space with what the title suggests, first contact with an alien species.  Also, as the title suggests, this leads to war.  The aliens, which humans call the Kreelans, are warrior-like, hundreds of thousands of years more advanced, and have a complex social structure that proves to be quite fascinating.  This book covers first contact and the subsequent war that results, but it’s only the beginning.  This promises to be a long war, considering it’s a long series.

The characters are pretty well-developed.  At the centre is Ichiro Sato, a young and inexperienced officer who becomes the centre of attention by Earth’s forces and the Kreelans.  He’s the messenger, and he has a tough job.  He develops a relationship with Stephanie Guillaume, a journalist who gets to go through an experience of a lifetime.  Her growth over the book was quite good.  Another major character is Sergeant Patty Coyle.  She’s a tough woman who proves to be a formidable leader who I was really rooting for.  There’s a huge number of human characters, but I found that these three were the most compelling and most central of the entire book.  On the Kreelan side, we have Tesh-Dar and Li’ara-Zhurah being the most major characters.  There’s a lot of focus on their points of view, which is part of what makes this book interesting. We see both sides of the battle.  We get to understand why the Kreelans are fighting, as well as how they think.  They seem less evil and a lot more real.  That was well-done.

The action is central to this story, as this is basically one giant epic battle.  It’s not just in space, though.  We get a combination of space battles between spaceships, as well as hand-to-hand combat, gun battles, and sword fights.  That’s right, the Kreelans prefer to use swords.  I felt that the action was done very nicely, though some may find the use of technical military terms a bit too much to understand.  The battles are very long and drawn-out, too.  There’s so much detail, and we see the battle from several points of view.

The setting is mostly in space, as well as on Keran, the location of the battle.  In the beginning, on the Aurora and the Kreelan ship, we get a good description of the ships.  It’s as if the characters are seeing things for the first time, so we get a very good idea of what they see.  The atmosphere on the Kreelan ship was quite interesting.  Later on, setting descriptions become less important, while dialogue and action are the focus.  I didn’t get a very good feel for Keran, though a decent image of the ships used by the Kreelans and humans.

I was drawn in to the story quite a bit.  I was firmly on Sato’s side, and I was almost cheering for him at times.  I got to like his first shipmates, especially Captain McLaren and Yao Ming.  The battles were brutal.  There was plenty of violence, not as a glorification of violence, but to show what war is like.  It didn’t make it romantic.  There are a lot of deaths, including major characters.  Don’t be surprised if your favourite character dies.

Overall, this was a very solid sci-fi novel with good character development and epic battles.  There are still some mysteries to be solved, but I expect to discover the answers in future books.  I will definitely keep reading.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  Recommended to any science fiction, space opera, or military sci-fi fan.  It’s a very enjoyable read.

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