I’ve always enjoyed PJ Strebor’s Military SF, and have come to regard Nathan Telford as one of my favourite characters – I’m glad to report that Silent Running did absolutely nothing to detract from any of that, and took the Hope Island Chronicles to new heights.
In this third book in the series, Nathan is older, wiser, and ready to make all new kinds of mistakes. Which is important – characters need to be fallible, and PJ handles his characters with an expert touch, allowing not only past events and decisions to impact his characters in new and unforseen ways, but by also allowing his characters to learn and react as they push forward, while always keeping how they would have reacted in mind. Kind of like life, PJ’s characters are messy and not always balanced, get emotional, lose perspective… It’s been an education to read how PJ has handled Nathan’s character-growth, specifically, and I have to take my hat off to him.
Now, if you’ve read the first two books in the series (and the fourth, which I haven’t yet), you’ll know Nathan’s backstory – what happened to him and his family when he was very young, the adversities he had to deal with as he grew up, and the challenges he had to surmount when he entered ‘society’ and began to forge a career and path for himself. If you haven’t, here’s a quick run-down:
Nathan’s family’s ship was attacked, basically hijacked, and almost everyone was killed or died. The attackers belonged to an empire-building, fanatical and fascist group, and as such, Nathan grew to really, really dislike them and everything they represent. Nathan had to survive on his own for years, and developed an interesting ability as a kind of survival mechanism – which stood him in good stead once he entered the navy and began forging the beginning of his legend – unknowingly, of course.
In this third novel, Nathan and his crew are targeted by a singularly determined and vicious enemy – our hero is forced to go deep behind enemy lines, facing not only threats and danger from those hunting him, but also from those trying to prove themselves on his own side. PJ handles a novel-full of tension well, keeping the pace up, sprinkling humour and tragedy here and there to spice things up, and still manages to share info regarding the universe he’s built for Nathan to play in and the mechanics of this universe’s technology without bogging down the narrative with info-dumps or spells of dry, rote reading.
PJ has become one of those authors whose work I’ll immediately shift to the top of the pile, because his track record is great and he knows how to spin an action-packed, pacey, character-driven yarn. Highly recommended!