A Hymn Before Battle
By John Ringo, Read by Marc Vietor
12 CDs – 15 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Military SF / Battle / Aliens / Computers /
First published in 2000, John Ringo’s A Hymn Before Battle is the 1st book in his Posleen War series, also known as the Legacy of the Aldenata. It is 2001 and America is at peace. Former Lieutenant Mike O’Neal is now a website developer. Despite throwing in some web development jargon I was impressed that it didn’t sound dated, even after nine years. Mike is recalled to a top secret briefing where it is revealed that aliens have contacted the heads of the major governments. Their message warns that there is a rampaging alien horde, the Posleen, are coming this way through the galaxy and they need our help. Unfortunately for the alien’s Galactic Federation, they have no ability when it comes to war. One race go so far as to revert to a virtual non-sentient state whenever they attempt to take another’s life. Needless to say, they are losing the war against the sauroid aliens, the Posleen. They are nearly as afraid of the humans as they are the Posleen. But with their backs to the wall, they have decided to enlist mankind to fight their war for them. The fact that we would be over run by the Posleen in a few years is enough to rally all the nations to join the cause.
Mike O’Neal, together with many others, including a sly reference to an SF author of space combat novels refered to only as “David”, are tasked to develop the weapons, vehicles and systems that mold Galactic technology to human use. Mike’s own project is the development of the ACS, the Armoured Combat Suit.
The first battle is fought with several international forces attempting to defend one of the worlds of the pacifistic worker race, the Indowy. Perhaps something that might not have been included in books written more than a year later, is the tactical collapsing of inhabited alien megascrapers as weapons. The versatility and vastly changed tactics the Armoured Combat Suits bring to the combat scenes are well thought out, even to the point of a rather grisly flaw caused by the armour being too strong.
The action is well described as Ringo build up the range of abilities embodied by the ACS’s. Lots of characters are introduced and their personalities brought to life by the narrator, Marc Vietor.
It must be said, Marc Vietor dives into the alien words and names with gusto. Ringo surely didn’t have narration in mind when he named Ttckpt Province, or Tulo’stenaloor, First Order Battlemaster of the Sten Po’oslena’ar. For a couple of chapters I was even reading along from the Baen Free Library/WebScription edition. This impressed me as I could see how Vietor added lots of texture and emotion to the dialog and prose, that you might not otherwise have from reading the text alone.
The story doesn’t just follow Mike O’Neal. There are two other plot threads that clearly are building towards something much larger for later books in the series. A Hymn Before Battle sets the stage with, what I presume are it’s major players, for the following books in the series. I look forward to reading more in this series, and to more of John Ringo’s other works.
Posted by Paul [W] Campbell