A Review of Off Armageddon Reef

Off Armageddon Reef (Safehold, #1)Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really good book starting what is probably a really good series, yet it has some problems. First, it is about a world called Safehold, humanity’s last planet, because an alien race that can detect technology has wiped out the rest of humanity. As a result, this planet was colonized by people who were mind wiped and given medieval technology and given a theocratic rule, by the Church of God Awaiting, founded by “Archangels,” who are the people who founded the colony. Nine hundred years later, an AI “wakes” up in a cave to discover she/he has been lying dormant, waiting for the right time to emerge and wake humanity up and bring technology back to the people. The Church, which rules all, is completely corrupt. Merlin, the indestructible AI, goes to the kingdom of Charis, which he feels is most likely to accept change. He saves the prince from an assassination attempt, and then the first councilor from another assassination attempt, and is given a spot in the king’s court.

And so it begins. The Church decides it no longer likes Charis. Merlin has been helping make changes in Charis, introducing looms, sails, muskets, quick firing cannons, etc., and the Church forces five neighboring kingdoms to gang up on Charis and sail in their navies to destroy the kingdom. There are a couple of major naval battles, which are written pretty well, and the book ends. At about 800 pages. It’s a long book. And it could have done with an editor. It’s too long.

Some of the problems. There are far too many characters. Weber loves characters. He loves to introduce them in his Honor Harrington series, but this is ridiculous! There must be hundreds of them here, and they all have titles — Sir, Earl, Duke, Prince, King, Vicar, etc. And to make matters worse, he thinks he’s being clever by intentionally misspelling them. Instead of spelling common names normally, he adds vowels and consonants, so that the names look like Haarahld, Nahrmahn, Maysahn, Kahlvyn, and Makferzahn. It’s freaking stupid and it makes it totally impossible to remember them all. Impossible. Did I say stupid? Also, if I have to see the phrase, “He bared his teeth” one more time, I’m going to puke! Weber — people don’t bare their damn teeth!!! Dogs do. Wolves do. People don’t. And he wrote this at least 15 times. It was damned annoying. And did I say the book was too long? Talk about infodumps! He could have pruned this book by 200 pages and still made it good. Was he being paid by the word?

Irritants aside, it was a pretty good book. He handles separation of church and state pretty well. The naval battles are really well done. The heroes are heroic and the bad guys are pure evil. Merlin is a little two dimensional, but he kicks ass and that’s cool. I’ve already started on the next book, so I obviously wanted to know what happened next. This isn’t exactly sci fi. It’s partially fantasy, I guess? World building? Whatever the case, it’s recommended.

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