R. M. Meluch
If you enjoy solid, exciting and well-crafted military sci-fi do yourself a favor and check out R. M. Meluch’s The Myriad. Honestly stop reading this review and check it out. The novel makes an interesting discussion piece, more on that later, and is definitely one of the more engaging military sci-fi novel I’ve read. The Myriad takes an interesting premise with characters whose personality’s are ratcheted way up to 11 and really runs with it right up until the heartrending twist at the novel’s close.
The Myriad takes the idea that despite Rome’s fall the Roman Empire never really died just went into hiding amongst secret societies. On day the opportunity arises to abandon Earth for a new home: the planet Palantine and Rome jumps at it severing ties with Earth and starting the first Galactic Civil war. The Myriad opens just as the Palantine has surrendered to the League of Earth Nations due to the emergence of a new and merciless enemy known only as the Hive. Inhuman carnivores the Hive are attracted to the FTL communication employed by both sides. The Merrimack has been assigned the task of eliminating a finding the Hive home-world and are joined in this endeavor by a Roman Patterner Augustus; an experiment in posthuman engineering. It is on this mission that The Merrimack stumbles across the titular Myraid, a cluster of stars that houses an isolated civilization and other potentially more useful secrets.
Name any number of sci-fi influences and The Myriad can be seen borrowing from just about all of them. There are shades of Battlestar Gallactica (the Commander of the Marine pilots reminded me of Colonel Tigh), a dash of Aliens, a pinch of Starship Troopers, and heck even a light dusting of Star Trek. Meluch pulls all these disparate influences into a convincing and refreshing whole that manages to stand well on its own. This isn’t really a novel about fine details and intricate science but one about high adventure and bold deeds; more adventure sci-fi than hard sci-fi. Meluch has done her best to make the Merrimack feel more like an traditional sailing vessel with nice touches like the swords issued crew members (effective against boarders, human or otherwise), to the fact that the futuristic guns aboard the vessel are hand loaded by crews, and there is something delightfully old school (if not historically accurate) about the use of animals and insects on board as low-tech sensor systems.
The characters are all very much the gung-ho over-the-top types. Captain John Farragut is a cavalier, no-holds barred swashbuckler type; as adept with strategy and tactics as he is with his sword. The Marine commander, Colonel Steele is an overly aggressive take action type who lusts after one of his soldiers, the ship’s “morale officer” Kerry Blue (yes, that’s a euphemism). While the Roman Patterner, Colonel Augustus, is as precisely as arrogant and holier-than-thou as one would expect. It goes on and on; everyone painted in bold strokes. While it doesn’t touch too closely on the finer details of human emotion and relationships these broad strokes do provide for an easy connection to the characters and the perfect framework for high energy action.
The novel ends with a bang. A real gut-shot of an ending. Really, the less said about it the better. It didn’t really mar by enthusiasm for the novel by any means but absolutely did not see that twist coming. The Myriad, with its easy characterization, fascinating world, and entertaining action makes for a quick read. It definitely left my ready to jump immediately into the second book The Wolf Star. While not a perfect novel by any means, there is a certain adolescent quality to the relationships (particularly the romantic leanings of several crew members, an area that other military sci-fi series sometimes struggle with as well) depicted in the novel, but as gung-ho military sci-fi The Myriad works quite wonderfully. If you’re looking for an entertaining read that will have you on the edge of your seat, and ready for more once you’ve hit the last page, you need look no further than The Myriad.