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Rise of Mankind, by John Walker (Books 1 -10)
Reviewed by Tobias Roote
Description:Three years ago, Earth was attacked by an invading force so devastating, only one ship in the fleet survived. Their hard won victory came from the aid of an alliance of aliens long at war with an aggressive force. With the aid of advanced technology, humanity retrofitted their surviving vessel. The Behemoth became a shield against any future incursions.
Now a strange ship has arrived, heading straight toward Earth. As it is not answering hails, the Behemoth heads out to intercept. The operation is interrupted by other visitors from beyond the solar system. Outnumbered the Behemoth must fend off the invaders once again but this time, the stakes are much higher.
Firstly this review is for the complete series Rise of Mankind which for me constituted ten books read in sequence. Something of the order of 160,000 words.
Earth is attacked by an alien force and barely survives annihilation. Rescued at the last minute by a friendly alien force, the Behemoth goes from incapable defence to capable defender through the beneficial gift of advanced technology.
The books run like episodes, each one a complete adventure that builds into a complete works. Fans of Ryk Brown will enjoy this series and Gray, like Brown's Nathan becomes the rising star of the Alliance, the format that Earth's benefactors call the loose-shift empire of aligned worlds.
Strong characters like Clea, Meagan and Olly serve to fill out the chapters and the give the reader opportunity to get to know everyone through Walker's attention to their personal thoughts and feelings. I felt that much of the nuance was on naive, but good people having to make hard choices that forced them to face their own fears.
Throughout the books many moral dilemmas and difficult decisions force the crew to harden their attitude to survive in this new harsh environment and whilst the enemies are plentiful the increasing experience of the ship's crew impress their alliance friends as Earth moves deeper into the war with their common enemies.
I liked the flow of the story, the action is powerful, clearly described and you get a real sense of the danger and speed with which the close-in engagements take place. It's all fast-action space warfare with a little 'black ops' thrown in for good measure, a real treat for hard SF and Space Opera addicts. The Marines see plenty of ground action and the fighter and bomber squadrons are centre stage. The science isn't bad either and acts up in realistic scenarios. Believable science is one of the cornerstones of good SF and Walker pulls this off sufficiently well enough to keep you in the loop..
I didn't like the frequent, but ubiquitous references to US Marines that often accompany these types of books, but then I'm not American. Phrases like 'Thank you for your service' don't roll off the Kieren's alien tongues in quite the same way without imagining them speaking with a strong American accent. Personally, I think these types of references should be avoided at all costs as it stereotypes the writer and the characters (and not in a good way).
All in all a good read, and whilst it took me a while to get through all the books I think most readers will pace themselves and enjoy the series much more than I did. A highly recommended holiday read.