Embers of War (Embers of War #1), by Gareth L. Powell

The House of Reclamation is blend of the French Foreign Legion and the Red Cross: their goal is to save lives irrespective of faction. New personnel may leave their past behind. Captain Sal Konstanz and her ship, the Trouble Dog, roam the galaxy to perform rescue missions for the House.

The Trouble Dog was once one of four in a pack of Carnivore class warships: fiercely armed, fast and intelligent. The pack, under orders of Captain Annelida Deal, were the weapon that destructed the sentient jungle of Pelapatarn during the Archipelago War. Troubled by her conscience the Trouble Dog now seeks to atone for her crimes.

While on a mission to rescue survivors from the scout ship Hobo, which seems to have killed itself, the crew receive word that a second ship, the passenger liner Geest van Amsterdam, is stranded under similar circumstances. Trouble Dog is eager to find out who or what is capable of convincing ships to kill themselves.

Poet Ona Sudak, who gained some fame writing epic poems on the destruction of the sentient jungle of Pelapatarn, is a passenger on the Geest van Amsterdam. Somehow she is not convinced the targeting of the ship is a coincidence.

Embers of War is not a Culture novel. The reason for this statement however is that while Powell has his own style, Embers or War will definitely speak to people who enjoy Culture novels: apparently humanity has survived the current era’s crises long enough to become a space-faring species. Moreover, they have joined a larger group of space-farers (the Multiplicity of Races). Credible aliens, vast time scales. Oh, and the ships are sentient and have names like Trouble Dog and Righteous Fury. This is Very Fun Space Opera Indeed.

Telling the story from different first person views Powell is creating realistic characters and settings. As with any space opera, battles occur and Powell does us a great service not to stretch those out over pages and pages. He is keeping his chapters (each chapter is told by another character) relatively short, sometimes ending them in cliff hangers which greatly helps the book’s pacing and sometimes makes you feel like you’re tearing through the pages trying to read them faster.

Mandatory reading for anyone who enjoys good space opera.

For my own benefit I kept a list of character, ship and group names.

Captain Sal Konstanz: captain of the Trouble Dog, great-great-granddaughter of Sophia Nikitas, founder of the House of Reclamation
Annelida Deal: Captain of the Righteous Fury during the Archipelago War
Ona Sudak: poet, passenger on the Geest van Amsterdam
Alva Clay: rescue specialist serving under Captain Konstanz because Konstanz saved her live in the Archipelago War.
Ashton Childe: Conglomeration Intelligence operative on Cichol
Nod: technical maintainer of the Trouble Dog, blue-skinned hermaphroditic Druff from the planet Lestipidese, a six-legged species with faces at the end of each leg. The Druff are apolitical and make good mechanical and electrical engineers.
Preston Menderes: freshly minted medic for the House of Reclamation
Laura Petrushka: Outward Intelligence agent on Cichol

Trouble Dog: Carnivore class warship, formerly of the Conglomeration, whose pack on Captain Deal’s command destroyed the sentient jungle of Pelapatarn during the Archipelago War
Righteout Fury: Scimitar class warship
Hobo: scout ship, shot down on a potential colonisation site
Geest van Amsterdam: passenger liner, carrying, amongst others, Ona Sudak
Adalwolf: leader of the pack of Carnivores, sibling to Trouble Dog, Fenrir, War Mutt, Anubis and Coyote.

House of Reclamation: the galactic Red Cross combined with the French Foreign Legion: faction neutral; new personnel may leave their past behind when joining. Their purpose is to save lives.
Human Generality: the human part of the Multiplicity
Multiplicity of Races: cooperative organisation spanning a variety of space-faring races
Conglomeration: human civilisation descending from capitalist Anglo-American culture
Outward: human faction opposing the Conglomeration in that the Outward are more open to alien ideas and influences and believe in universal healthcare and common ownership of resources and infrastructure.
Human Generality: the whole of the human civilisation in the Multiplicity.

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