Skip to main content

Book Review: The Excalibur Alternative

Happy Thursday, everyone. Here is July's book review for general consumption. Since the book I am reviewing is the third in a series, a potential SPOILER WARNING is in effect if you have not read the Ranks of Bronze series.

The Excalibur Alternative (Ranks of Bronze #3)
David Weber, 2002, Baen Books

It's just another day at war for Sir George Wincaster and the group of 14th-century English soldiers he leads until they are abducted by aliens who are part of the Galactic Federation. Stuck in outer space and used as mercenaries to conquer the populations of low-tech planets, they wonder if they will ever make their way home. An unexpected opportunity comes their way when a member of another alien race, who is also being subjugated by the Galactic Federation, approaches Sir George with a proposition to take over the ship and win back their freedom. Will he take them up on it, and what will the consequences be?

I confess, I did it again. Started reading a book in the middle of a series. When am I going to learn my lesson?

Seriously, though - although this novel is part of a series, it reads much like a standalone (something I often appreciate in a series of stories). In some ways it is. While this story is part of the series, it fleshes out some of the history that comes up in previous books.

That said...

The Excalibur Alternative was a bit of a slog, which made it fairly easy to set aside when writing deadlines and other things came up. Weber spends more time than necessary on details that are not essential to building the world or moving the story forward. This book reads like a well-polished world-building exercise. With the plot points it had and how they were executed, it could easily have been a novella or a short story and still worked.

Also, the reactions of characters to their situation at times seemed off-beat - not so much the leader of the alien race that kidnapped Sir George and his men as the men underneath Sir George's command. I get that advanced technology can inspire fear and a certain amount of obedience, but something about their mental state in the situation they were in did not seem right, and I'm not sure I can put my finger on exactly what. It was hard to connect with the characters and their plight because of it.

After writing this review, I went back to see what other reviewers said about it. One of them noted that this was an expansion of a story that had been included in an anthology of short stories in the Ranks of Bronze world. That would explain why I felt like it would have worked as a short story. 

Overall, this was not the best of introductions to David Weber's work. I'm not writing his other stories off completely, but I am hesitant to pick up anything else by him at this point.


Popular posts from this blog

My Writer's Toolbox: Thesauruses I Love

I don't know about the rest of you writers in the crowd, but there are times when I struggle to get the right words to come out onto the page. The debate over using thesauruses amongst authors can be fierce. My personal opinion is that there is definitely a place and time to use them (they've saved me from missing deadlines on a few occasions), so long as a writer is careful not to overuse them. Because I do consider them an essential in my writer's toolbox of resources, I thought I would share the ones I make the most use out of and where you can find them. 1. Webster's New World Thesaurus (credit: @catpollockwrites IG, posted 8/24/2017 ) When you were in grade school, did your teachers ever hand out those monthly or bimonthly Scholastic book catalogs with all the age-appropriate books coming out that they wanted you to buy? That, my friends, is how I got a hold of my thesaurus. It's almost like mid-thirties me traveled back in time and whispered int

Metaphors: Candles

I've recently fallen in love with candles. Since coming home from the World Race , I've bought at least one a month. My favorite candles are the ones that come in glass jars - because when they burn out, I can clean the remaining wax out and put the jars to other uses. Right now,  that means they get cleaned out and packed away in anticipation of my move to Flagstaff. But as I was lighting one tonight (vanilla spice... Thanksgiving smells? Yes, please!), I saw a metaphor for writing flickering away in the flame licking at the wick and melting the wax. I suppose it could be a metaphor for life in general, but since the theme of this blog is writing... Well, you do the math.

[Five Minute Friday] Purpose

Fiber bars, strewn along the side of the road. There had to be at least a dozen of them, still in their wrappers and completely unopened. No box in sight. Really? That's about the reaction my younger sister and I had when we stumbled on them on our early morning run. Really? along with disgusted sighs about the wastefulness of it. These were the expensive ones, not a generic store brand that kind of tastes and kind of looks the same sometimes. So, when we weren't keeping an eye out for their box, we speculated about what had happened. And wondered how many more we were going to see before the end of our run. "Maybe they took one bite and thought they were gross," my sister said. "So they threw them out because they didn't want them anymore." I let out one of those disgusted sighs and nodded along with her theory. "Yeah, or they got in a huge fight, and threw them out in a fit of rage." "That's a possibility." And