Banner of the Stars: The Screech of Space-Time

By Hiroyuki Morioka and Toshihiro Ono. Released in Japan by Hayakawa Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Giuseppe di Martino.

In the Afterword for this book, published in Japan in 2004, the author apologizes for taking so horribly long to write it (the previous book had come out in 2001). Which makes me wonder how the next book, which came out in 2013, is going to top that. It’s also been a while since the last volume came out in English, but that’s OK, because the reader is dropped right back into one of the main features of Banner of the Stars: Epic Space Battles. Sadly, that is a mark against it for me, as I’ll be honest: I find a lot of the space battle writing in this book tedious. It is no doubt more realistic than, say, the ‘let’s fall out of our chairs’ battles in Star Trek, but there is a certain sterility to it all. Actually, this volume has quite a few marks against it. Jin and Lafier end up playing smaller roles, which is a shame as they’re the reason I read the books. More to the point, the Abh are still just not that likeable.

As I said, a lot of this book is space battles, as it reminds us that the Abh are at war with the various human federations that vie against them. But that might change soon – one of the minor players on the other side wants to negotiate a deal that might actually shift the tide and lead to the end of the war. This is good news, despite all the Abh talking about how much they love being in battle. That said, can the deal really be trusted? It helps that the idea for the deal came about watching the way that Jint handled his own planet recently, giving everyone ideas. As for Jint and Lafier, as I said, they don’t get as much time together as before, and what little there is is more down to showing off how Jint is still trying to assimilate and not quite making it. That said, given the cliffhanger the two of them will soon have much bigger things to worry about.

As I said, I like Jint and Lafier, and I like their scenes together here, but there are simply too few of them. We get a long stretch devoted to the current Empress and her discussions with aides on whether to accept the offer they’re being handed. It’s good f you like political realism, but again shows us that the Abh, in general, are simply too blase and matter of fact about everything, and it does not make for the most scintillating writing. It reminds me of bad Star Trek books that tried to write Vulcans but fell too hard on the “logical” side. At least there’s banter, and we’re reminded that the Abh basically run on it, but that’s sometimes not enough, especially when it’s not really clear if we’re meant to see them as the enemy or the protagonists.

Fortunately, we do not have a nine-year wait for the next book to come out. Unfortunately, I get the feeling I’ll be seeing a lot more space battles in it, given the events towards the end of this book. In the meantime, more Jint and Lafier being an obvious couple but never doing anything about it, please.

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