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---Review by Nic Brown---

How do you hide from an alien race, the Gbaba, bent on destroying all technologically advanced societies in the universe? For the final colony fleet of the Terran Federation the answer was give up the technology whose emissions would betray you to them. They created a secret colony world where all of humanity’s advanced technology has been erased from the settlers’ minds. Fusion power was replaced by the water wheel, space ships by galleys and the hope was that this would save the human race from extinction.

However the megalomaniacal leadership of the colony mission went further. They made themselves out as archangels and created a repressive religion where the word of God forbade technology and innovation. This is the world where Nimue Alban awakes 800 years after the colony’s founding… and her death.

Not all the colony’s founders believed that humanity must be chained into the dark ages for survival, so those few rebels left Nimue, or more specifically her consciousness in an advanced android body, with a cache of technology and a mission: restore freedom of thought and belief to humankind and bring about the return of technological progress. As one of the tag lines for the book says “dying in humanity’s defense was the easy part”.

Welcome to the first 44pages of David Weber’s “Off Armageddon Reef”.

“Off Armageddon Reef” uses a number of familiar themes in new ways. The book starts with space-naval warfare and ends with galleys andgalleons battling on the high seas. Also the focus shifts from fighting an alien threat, to awakening the human spirit against oppression. High- tech “magic” verses religious doctrine.

Perhaps the most interesting character is Nimue Alban. Not only does she have to deal with her mission, but also with her own feelings. After all she died 800 years before, so is the consciousness that she now has really her? Does she have a soul? Tough questions for Nimue to deal with and she has to answer them while trying to find a way to reverse 800 years of church oppression, no small task.


Another interesting facet is that as a woman, Nimue could not expect to be taken seriously in a male dominated medieval society. The solution, reconfigure her android body to be a male. The problem is her android body is too well designed and now she has to deal with literally being a woman trapped in a man’s body. This leads to some embarrassing and amusing situations for Nimue.

Although she is the central character, Weber does not spend all of his time on Nimue. Like many of his other novels, “Off Armageddon Reef” weaves a detailed tapestry of political intrigue and maneuvering. The world of Safehold, is well developed and populated by a rich variety of characters. Weber is a master at creating as much tension in the throne room as he does on the battle field and mixes the two to keep the reader involved in the story.

By the end of “Off Armageddon Reef” it is apparent to the reader that this is but the first in a series of books. This does not mean that you cannot read it as a stand alone book, far from it. Just don’t expect all the questions to be answered, all the problems to be solved or all the battles to be fought in this one book. I highly recommend “Off Armageddon Reef” for fans of science fiction and fantasy literature. Space ships, androids and alien races neatly blended with horses, swords and sailing ships. “Off Armageddon Reef” doesn’t fit neatly into one descriptive mold, but then again most good things don’t, so check it out for yourself and see what you think!


 



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