The Reaches by David Drake: a review

An unusually brutal and bloody work of fiction. You are warned, if you care. Nonetheless, I highly recommend these novels.

Three novels, collectively retelling the career of Sir Francis Drake as a science fiction tale. The first, Igniting the Reaches, follows the Drake character, Piet Ricimer, as a slaver and near-pirate. The second, Through the Breach, is a creative recreation of Drake’s ’round the world voyage. The third, Fireships, is based on the battle of the Armada, and the events leading up to and following that battle. While I’m not expert on Drake’s career, I know enough to recognize some of the battles and events as told here.

This is a marvelous work of imagination. The author has developed plausible and internally-consistent reasons for starships to have similar properties to age-of-sail warships, and similar vulnerabilities. Moveover, he’s created a political universe enough like that of Elizabeth’s reign to use it as a framework for a Drake-like career. Finally, he’s told the story through the eyes of sympathetic, albeit very brutal, characters who are certainly real enough to be credible; they worry about each other, brood about the impacts of their activities, and–most interestingly–they grow as we watch them.

Well done, David Drake. Now do a followup based on Horatio Nelson. Please?

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

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