Review: The Sagittarius Command by R. M. Meluch

The Sagittarius Command by R. M. Meluch
The Sagittarius Command by R. M. Meluch

The Sagittarius Command (Tour of Merrimack #3)
R. M. Meluch
DAW, 2007

Having previously read both The Myriad and The Wolf Star I jumped at reading R. M. Meluch’s The Sagittarius Command, the third book in The Tour of Merrimack, only to be stymied by its odd ebook formatting. I eventually came back to the title and powered through the short sentences and short paragraphs and as I suspected found the book as enjoyable as its predecessors. The Sagittarius Command picks up not too long after The Wolf Star with Captain Farragut having accepted the surrender of Roman Emperor and the threat of the Hive swarms bearing down on humanity. Earth and Palatine now find themselves uneasy, to put it quite mildly, allies against this new greater threat.

Many of my complaints from both The Myriad and The Wolf Star stand for The Sagittarius Command. However, as I mentioned, the biggest difficulty I had in reading the novel was the stylistic choice Meluch went for in her prose with short, fragmentary sentences and paragraphs. Take the following paragraph from the beginning of the book for example:

It was hot. There were no climate controls. Alien smells carried on a thin breeze through the open window. He heard the quiet whir of the transports. Voices. Footsteps. Loading and unloading. Strange spiraling song of green birds.

It is a stylistic approach that Meluch seems to reach for throughout the novel. Some paragraphs can be as little as one sentence long like this one later in the novel “Rob Roy Buchanan stared into his drink at a solitary table in Mad Bear O’s space bar in the main station of Fort Eisenhower.” While other can be longer, typically when exposition is involved (the single sentence I just mentioned is followed by a more typical paragraph about Mad Bear O’s). The jarring nature of the sparse prose is actually made worse since the ebook version adds line breaks between every paragraph (the hardcover print version doesn’t). Those line breaks are likely why I notice it more in The Sagittarius Command than in the first two novels. It’s strange how such a simple formatting decision can effect how one approaches a novel.

The Myriad and The Wolf Star weren’t books for deep characterization or lengthy musings and The Sagittarius Command does nothing to change that. The attempts at forming relationships between characters with perhaps one notable exception feel sort of tacked on and half-formed. I am less than fond of the romantic forbidden love relationship between Blue and Steele. The most interesting dynamic by far is that between Captain Farragut and the Patterner Augustus and The Sagittarius Command does a pretty good job at uncovering some of the deeper complexities of Augustus.

The Sagittarius Command (and the previous two novels) is a big blockbuster action movie of a novel. It is less about characterization and philosophical musings than it is about the thrill of the ride. The writing is sparse and takes a little getting used to but Meluch’s penchant for relying on dialogue and action over lengthy exposition makes for a constantly thrilling ride that passes by in the blink of an eye. This is a constantly entertaining series that fans of action sci-fi looking for a quick read should definitely jump on.

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