Fire with Fire

Charles E. Gannon
Fire with Fire Cover

Fire with Fire


Nicely-layered, complex and intelligent plot, great action, a fun but thought-provoking ride!

I originally picked up this book because it was nominated for a Nebula award, not having previously read anything by the author - or so I thought. I really enjoyed this book (so much so, that I read and finished it in one sitting into the wee hours), and I wrote a brief, positive review of it afterward.

Then I checked out the author's information - and discovered, to my pleasure, that I actually had previously read something by him: the short story By The Book, in the anthology Beginnings: Worlds of Honor 6 from the Honor Harrington universe. This discovery really delighted me, because By The Book had made such a huge impression on me when I read it that it was probably the single Honorverse short story that stood out in my mind above all ~26 others.

So... I've just done a re-read of Fire With Fire - this time, taking a little more time to pay attention to the setup and structure of the plot, rather than just zooming through it due to sheer enjoyment, as I had the first time.

Fire With Fire is a really interesting hybrid of space opera and political intrigue (as is By The Book). If I were to write a cover blurb for FWF, it would be "Intellectual 007 in Space". There is plenty of substance here for both fans of SF action-adventure and those who enjoy thoughtful examinations of cultural and political events and their implications.

One of the things I liked best about this novel was its lack of predictability (I am one of those annoying people who always has the twist and the ending figured out 20 minutes into a movie or 100 pages into a book). As the story progresses, the author continues to add new characters and dimensions to the plot - which keeps going off in unexpected directions.

The main character has been revived after being forcibly put into cold sleep 13 years before. His memory is missing from the 4 days immediately prior to being put "on ice", and he knows only that he was taken out of circulation because he stumbled upon some dangerous secret information.

In the first section of the book, he is reluctantly conscripted into an exploratory mission to investigate rumors of the first sapient alien species humankind has encountered - on a distant world which has been settled by humans, many of whom are employees of an unscrupulous corporation which will do anything to eliminate obstacles to its planetary expansion and its profit.

In the next part of the book, he is again convinced against his better judgment to assist the shadowy organization which cryofroze and revived him. After escaping repeated assassination attempts, he journeys to Mars - where he is once again drafted, this time into serving as ambassador to an association of sentient alien races who have finally deemed humans sufficiently advanced technologically to be approached for membership. But the conclave to consider humans' entry into this interstellar league is fraught with its own political machinations and physical dangers.

The author is beautifully-adept at describing detail, and he has created a multi-dimensional world with a lot of possibility for plot exploration. The main detraction I can make about this book is that I would like to see it delve a little deeper into the characters' thoughts and motivations - especially those of the females, who mainly play supporting roles in this first volume of the series.

There are a number of questions left unanswered in this novel, as a setup for the next - but I still thought it made a great adventure as a standalone book. I am eagerly looking forward to the next installment,  Trial by Fire , and a further exploration of the rich characters and universe introduced in this one.