Review of Fire with Fire by Charles Gannon

COMPTON CROOK AWARD FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL. NEBULA AWARD FINALIST. New Science Fiction Adventure Series! National Bestseller in trade paperback.  An agent for a spy organization uncovers an alien alliance in nearby interstellar space—an alliance that will soon involve humanity in politics and war on a galactic scale.

2105, September: Intelligence Analyst Caine Riordan uncovers a conspiracy on Earth’s Moon—a history-changing clandestine project—and ends up involuntarily cryocelled for his troubles. Twelve years later, Riordan awakens to a changed world. Humanity has achieved faster-than-light travel and is pioneering nearby star systems. And now, Riordan is compelled to become an inadvertent agent of conspiracy himself. Riordan’s mission: travel to a newly settled world and investigate whether a primitive local species was once sentient—enough so to have built a lost civilization.

However, arriving on site in the Delta Pavonis system, Caine discovers that the job he’s been given is anything but secret or safe. With assassins and saboteurs dogging his every step, it’s clear that someone doesn’t want his mission to succeed. In the end, it takes the broad-based insights of an intelligence analyst and a matching instinct for intrigue to ferret out the truth: that humanity is neither alone in the cosmos nor safe. Earth is revealed to be the lynchpin planet in an impending struggle for interstellar dominance, a struggle into which it is being irresistibly dragged. Discovering new dangers at every turn, Riordan must now convince the powers-that-be that the only way for humanity to survive as a free species is to face the perils directly—and to fight fire with fire.

I’m not going to say much about the plot of Fire with Fire.  One, because the copy above does a decent job.  Two, because it’s difficult to say much about the plot without spoilers.  And the twists—there are several—are what Fire With Fire does best.

Fire with Fire is a funny book.  As a science fiction book, there are a lot of cool ideas.  As a thriller, Gannon has a nice grasp on tension and the twist.  But, again, as a science fiction book, it fails at worldbuilding.  There is too much telling, and not enough showing.  Sometimes in explanation of those twists, in a nice example of the sometimes inevitable tensions between genres.  It does read easy, more like a 350-page book than a 700-page book.  They fade as the book progresses, but Gannon has annoying tics, none more so than Caine’s status as a polymath.  Merriam-Webster tells me that, in our world, a polymath is “a person of encyclopedic learning.”  In the world on Fire with Fire, on the other hand, it’s a goddamn super power.  Too much of the book is burned on characters marveling over Caine the polymath or explaining something we could have been shown.

3.5 of 5 Stars.

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About H.P.

Blogs on speculative fiction books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Science Fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Review of Fire with Fire by Charles Gannon

  1. Bookstooge says:

    I couldn’t stand Caine, so I never tried any more by Gannon.

    Liked by 1 person

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