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Von Neumann’s War —John Ringo & Travis S. Taylor
---Reviewed by Nic Brown---

Von Neumann’s War may be science fiction, but the authors went to a lot of trouble to ground it in science fact. The book doesn’t have a traditional prologue; instead the reader is presented with the executive summary report for a probe sent to Mars as part of the “Neighborhood Watch” program. Astronomers and scientists noticed that Mars had begun to rapidly change color. This, coupled with a loss of contact with all Martian probes, alerts scientists that something extraordinary and possibly extraterrestrial is happening to the once red planet.

“Neighborhood Watch” scientists are alarmed by what they find. Just before it is destroyed in an attack unknown origin, the probe relays pictures of huge structures, canals and roadways all over Mars. Now “Neighborhood Watch” shifts from being the lead investigation group for the phenomenon, to being the nexus for preparing defenses against the advancing aliens as it becomes clear that Earth is in their path.

Ringo and Taylor don’t skip over the science in the rush to science fiction. Rather, they show how existing technologies logically evolve in the face of the threat. They also avoid stereotypical clichs in their characters. Soldiers aren’t one dimensional killing machines and scientists aren’t academics with no sense of the real world. In other words, the characters are real people and this helps the reader relate to them during the course of the book. Take for example the idea for the “Neighborhood Watch” probe mission: some of the “rocket scientists” employed in Huntsville based aerospace industry, come up with the idea while drinking beer and eating chicken wings at Hooters. Scribbling their notes on napkins as they design the entire mission, the reader might wonder how many projects have actually been conceived there.

Make no mistake though, just because the book covers the science behind the sci-fi doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of action. The tension simply shifts from attempting to find out what is going on, to finding a way to stop the aliens. Battles are fought on many “planes” at one time as scientists race to find new weapons, and soldiers try to make them work against what at first appears to be an unstoppable alien threat. The book’s final battle pits soldier against alien machine, and scientist against alien intelligence. If mankind fails on either front, the human race may face extinction at the unfeeling hands of advancing alien menace.

The authors have created a book that is entertaining on many levels. Blending science, action, and humor, Von Neumann’s War is the first in a new series from John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor. Although it works as a stand alone novel, by the end of the book you are left turning the pages and hoping for more. Fortunately, John Ringo has a reputation for turning out books at break-neck speed without sacrificing quality in the process, so with any luck a sequel to this book will be on the shelves soon. I give Von Neumann’s War a hearty eight out of ten for originality, creativity, and overall good story telling by both the authors. Check it out!


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