Rating: Buy, Hardcover, New
Mrs. Bugbear and I have a love/hate relationship with Tom Kratman's books. Mrs. Bugbear doesn't actually read his books but she does mutter darkly about the blood stains on the bookshelf where they reside. I generally think they're quite good. In the case of The Lotus Eaters I read the eARC and it only left a small stain on the USB drive where it resides (the hardcover should be arriving some time in April). I like Col. Kratman's science fiction although in his own words:
"...I write social commentary with a thin patina of science fiction..." -- Tom Kratman, Blackfive InterviewBut then a lot of science fiction is social commentary with a thin patina of science fiction. Hell, most Hollywood films seem to be social commentary with a thin patina of entertainment so people can hardly damn Kratman's books for indulging in the same vice.
The Lotus Eaters is the third entry in the series that began with A Desert Called Peace. As an aside, the author seems to have real talent with respect to coming up with titles. I wasn't familiar with the quote (from the Agricola by Tacitus) or with Tom Kratman's works but I bought A Desert Called Peace just because of the title, the cover art of ADCP has a bigger impact after you've read the book. John Ringo seems to have the same talent, e.g. A Hymn Before
The Lotus Eaters seems to be a transition book as the series switches from the initial protagonist (the Salafi Ikhwan) to a new overt protagonist, the Tauran Union. The consequence of this transition is that unlike the two prior books almost the whole book is spent building up to the first overt confrontation between the protagonist and the new antagonist. Although the lack of action compared to the previous books may be a bit disappointing the author is to be commended for obviously planning well in advance where he's going with the series. The foreshadowing varies from heavy handed and obvious to subtle demonstrating overall that a great deal of planning and forethought has gone into this series.
Kratman also seems to have improved as an author. Some of the author's prior books seem a bit choppy and disjointed to me by virtue of the author using interludes and excursuses to provide background and perhaps a wee tiny bit of polemic. The Lotus Eaters sails quite a bit more smoothly although the chapter quotes could have been a bit shorter or relabeled as Excursuses.
I suppose I can't really call it polemic when I don't find very much of it controversial, but that may also be why I categorize it as a wee tiny bit of polemic.
In one respect I feel a bit cheated by The Lotus Eaters. In the eARC I purchased there is no author's afterword, which in any book with Tom Kratman's name attached I look forward to. In the author's defense in The Lotus Eaters, the chapter quotes fulfill much of the same purpose but lack the warm welcoming feel of the Afterword of A Desert Called Peace. The Chapter quotes do deliver the one thing that I've come to expect..nay demand... of a book with Tom Kratman's name on it. The Chapter quotes make me think.
In my final year of high school my English teacher (and coincidentally my football coach) called science fiction escapist fiction. I call bulls#!t and a offer Tom Kratman's books as evidence. Even if you don't agree with his politics or social commentary you should take the time to read A Desert Called Peace, Carnifex and The Lotus Eaters, just so that they make you think.