Aliens have invaded and destroyed most of Earth. The mightiest of nations, from the United States to China, have fallen under the barrage of the vastly superior alien weaponry. Across the world, guerilla warfare against the technologically superior aliens has begun. Humanity’s only hope lies in the form of its ultimate predator…
David Weber‘s Out of the Dark is an electric thriller set in the near future, when an alien race known as the Shongair suddenly and without any warning obliterates almost all of human society. Other aliens, sickened by the “repulsiveness” of human warfare, ordered the extermination of the humans as a species. The only problem is that the battle the aliens watched was the Battle of Agincourt and Henry V slaughtering the French (most people will agree, that was a good thing), and humanity has come a long way since that fateful day. Unprepared for the advancement of human society (we went from horses to super computers in less the 120 years, that’s freaky even by our standards), the alien Shongair stick their snouts into the hornet’s nest and discover that humans are far better at warfare than any other species anyone has ever encountered.
Unfortunately for humanity, the aliens control the skies, so whenever any attack on the Shongair occurs, inevitably the aliens drop kinetic weapons on the area and everything around it just to make certain the attackers didn’t escape. Call it… retribution, I suppose. An ineffective yet thorough way of taking out the guerillas, since the aliens have to take massive casualties in order for the response to happen. However, the aliens can’t take the losses of their equipment (they’re way out of their range from everybody else in the Hegemony, the alien “community”, and have absolutely no time to set up an industrial complex) and keep fighting the humans, so they begin to devise a terrifying option for dealing with humanity once and for all.
This, however, pisses off the apex predator from human history. Straight out of the darkness comes the most frightening creatures known to man to save the day: vampires. Led by the most ancient vampire of all (I’ll give you a hint… his name is not Edward. Sorry ladies…), the vampires join the fight for human independence. That threw me for a second but, eh, the story moves fast enough so I figured I’d just sit back and enjoy the ride.
This book is… different, to say the least. I mean, really, vampires and aliens? That’s like saying “Ohio State Wolverines” or something. But this is David Weber, and since he doesn’t hit you with fifteen pages of technological wizardry (yay!!!) this book really moves. It’s easy to forget that Weber is a terrific writer when you’re thumbing through the pages of a Honor Harrington novel trying to get past the technobabble. But in Out of the Dark Weber goes back to his action-packed narrative and a decent story, if not an original premise. Nothing against technobabble, it’s just that after five pages of explaining how the drives of an engine works (and doing it in every freakin’ novel in the series, btw) you start to yearn for the days of Star Trek, when it was just “Keep the containment field up, Cap’n” and everything goes smoothly.
Ah, I’m dithering again. Sorry.
The pacing, if you may not have figured out already, is excellent and the aliens fully believable. The effects on humanity are not really explored, though that doesn’t hinder this novel so much. The story that Weber delivers onto your lap lets you forget that there isn’t much to celebrate as more than 3 billion people are wiped out of existence, so embroiled with the current “now” of the character he happens to be focused on. The point of view is shifty, but nothing so bad as to throw you out of the book. But the kicker which might throw you is when the “creatures of the night” appear.
I absolutely loved this book, but that’s subjective due to the fact that I haven’t read a good vampire novel (at least one where the vampire isn’t banging every mortal chick while being a lonely emo whiny b****, or something like that). It does, in a way, remind me of the Anthony Ruggiero’s Immortal Servitude, but not entirely. The danger to humanity in this book is not from the vampires. The action is solid, and the story is there. Any fan of science fiction or urban fantasy should enjoy this novel.
I would get it from the library, all the same. It’s not a straight SF story, nor an urban fantasy one. If you read it expecting a classic alien vs humanity story, you will be disappointed. Me, I enjoyed it a lot. But not everyone will…
–Reviewed by Jason
#1 by Barb Caffrey on October 20, 2010 - 9:19 pm
I think the folks at Amazon expected a typical DW-style technobabble-filled magnum opus. His readership tends to be pretty straightforward in what they like, which is why DW can get away with all sorts of stuff you and I _cannot_ — that basically no other writer I’ve ever seen can get away with to the degree DW does.
I appreciate that DW wanted to write something different. This sounds interesting and I definitely will try to get it from my local library.