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Nothing says "I Love You, Dear" like screaming lower back pain!

Sometimes Wrong but rarely in doubt!

10 June 2010

Legions of Fire

David Drake
ISBN:  978-0765320780
Rating:  Buy, Paperback, New

I usually find David Drake's books to be either just okay or almost unreadable.  The various Hammer's Slammers stories I've enjoyed but I found The Reaches, an omnibus comprising Igniting the Reaches, Through the Breach and Fireships, to be virtually unreadable.   In fact I haven't finished the first book in the trilogy yet.  The impression that I get from reading one of Drake's books is that his focus is on writing a work of literature rather than entertaining.  I read for entertainment so David Drake's writing and my tastes in entertainment only occasionally intersect.  David Drake makes a living as a full-time writer so his books appeal to an audience wide enough to support him.

I am only intermittently part of his audience though.

The Legions of Fire piqued my interest though since I'd heard prior to the book's release that it would be loosely based on Rome.  I'm not an amateur scholar of Roman history but it is one of the areas of study I'm interested in. Legions of Fire seemed to be a reasonable prospect for the intersection of Drake's writing and my entertainment requirements.  The opening of the book is interesting and I actually found myself engrossed in the the book. 

There seemed to me to be a strange dichotomy within the book though.  At a certain point the four main protagonists enter into an alternate world, a world or spirit or dreams. Prior to what I'll refer to as the spirit world sequence the book seems rather well written, Drake was communicating concepts and settings very well and the characters were well developed.  As soon as the spirit world sequence began I found that the smooth flow of the story departed.  The book became somewhat disjointed and a bit harder to follow and the author was not providing all of the necessary information for the reader to follow the events in that sequence.  Perhaps that was deliberately done to create the same sense of confusion that the characters were grappling with in the readers mind.

Since I read for entertainment, I want generally want God's perspective.  That is to say that I crave omniscience.  I want to know everything that's going on, not what's going to happen but I want as complete a knowledge as possible of each scene.  I want to see reality and not be limited to the knowledge of the characters.  Legions of Fire fails to deliver sufficient omniscience in the spirit world sequence.

Despite that sequence I still enjoyed most of the book and I recommend it to anyone that's looking for a decent read.  Legions of Fire is likely very good literature but it's only a decent entertainment.


  1. No wonder you and I don't see eye to eye with your interest in omniscience (keep working on it, you aren't there yet!).

    I've always enjoyed works told from in-character perspective with limited knowledge. From a characterization point of view, I always found it more interesting to see the decision process for the character given their limited knowledge.

    I think when the author tells you everything, it gets harder to recall the character shouldn't know everything and unreasonable decisions based on knowledge the character couldn't have tend to be glossed over because we, the readers, know the full picture and we don't notice the character shouldn't be acting a particular way.

    I find things much more interesting when I see only a part of the whole and some mystery remains, some ambiguity, a gray area where decisions still need to be made and consequences are hard to predict correctly.

    I find that much more akin to my own life than the omniscient reader model.

    But it is interesting you feel that way. I wonder what percentage of readers prefer each style? That would have to affect an author who is writing to sell his work.

  2. If you like first person narrative then I suggest that you read Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun (five Book series. You'll then understand my apathy for first person. Done well first person can be very good.

    Perhaps I should have said I want the gods eye view. It's not that I want to know everything I just want to know enough that the story flows well. Too much information is a problem as well.

    The problem with Legions of Fire was that at a certain point the smooth flow of information seemed to break down, it may have been a dearth of info or info overload. I have the same problem with Gene Wolfe's work except it happened much earlier in the story (page 100 of book one).


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