Rating: Buy, Paperback, New
Even though all my books are currently boxed up and sitting in a pile in the rec room of the new house I indulged in buying the new David Weber book Out of the Dark. Out of the Dark is apparently a short story that has been expanded into a short novel.
Out of the Dark is the story of a Galactic Hegemony that assigns one the members species the task of colonizing earth in spite of the indigent sophonts. The author introduces a host of characters including a David and Sharon Dvorak. Sharon might be a thinly disguised appearance by his wife.
Overall the book isn't bad but there are a couple of glaringly irritating aspects. The first is that the description of the aliens doesn't appear until a third to halfway through the book. The omission doesn't really add anything to the plot, the author talks about the aliens using their ears for various emotive indicators but that's as much the readers get. So for about half the book I know the aliens have ears and that's it. For about half the book I'm picturing these aliens as a pair of elf ears walking on the lobes with prehensile tips holding their weapons. Eventually I find out that they look like canines and have six fingered hands and for the rest of the book I was expecting Inigo Montoya to show up and save the day. This is probably an artifact of expansion from short story to short novel.
The typesetter should have had a read after he finished his job. There are a number of scenes where Weber cuts from back and forth from various characters viewpoints. Each time the cut occurs the typesetter has put the first three words of the change in bold almost like the beginning of a chapter. Where it actually happened multiple times within a handful of sentences it actually got quite irritating.
The last problem is that the book was published by TOR rather than Baen and consequently I've had to read the book in a deadtree format and I can't get an e-book at a reasonable price. I could buy it for the exorbitant price that Amazon charges and then I'd have to (illegally ) strip out the DRM so that I could read it on the ebook device that I own which obviously is not a Kindle variant.
DAMN YOU TOR!!! WHERE DID YOU COME UP WITH THAT BRAIN-DEAD BUSINESS MODEL!
I found the aliens to be a bit clownish and the whole omnivore vs herbivore alien meme has been done to death by Larry Niven (Ringworld), John Ringo (Legacy of the Aldenata) and others. Ringo uses a good line in one of the Legacy of the Aldenata books, "Aliens are alien". Frankly I find the aliens in Out of the Dark to be insufficiently alien. I have that complaint about many books and films though. Notably the film Predator actually does a good job, just by not providing any insight into the thinking of the Predator. It's a difficult job and Weber missed the mark in Out of the Dark. Alien is not equal to stupid. When the alien makes naive decisions a plausible explanation needs to be advanced to show the alien logic that makes it the correct decision by the alien. I didn't find the aliens very plausible in that respect.
Despite spending so many words complaining the book still has the hallmarks of a Weber book that I enjoy, excellent battle scenes, good characterization, the Weber downloads are small and the story moves along smartly.
So when the book comes out in paperback buy it, until then please forward your complaints about the lack of an ebook in an appropriate format at an appropriate price to Amazon's and TOR's marketing departments. The same place I'll be forwarding Mrs. Bugbear's complaints about the lack of an ebook.