Marooned on the planet Marduk by an assassination attempt, Prince Roger MacClintock and his bodyguards must fight for survival as they march through steaming jungles, fighting lethal wildlife and treacherous local rulers all the way -- and it will take all his strength to get off the planet alive.... (from Amazon)
March to the Sea, the second installment of the Empire of Man series has fallen victim to the second-book-in-a-series syndrome. In the first book, there was a good balance of action, character development, and plot. In this book, there’s action and not much else.
Part of the problem is that most of the major character development has already happened, so what’s left is just refinement. Okay, I can deal with that, especially if there’s good time made on the plot front. Unfortunately, there wasn’t! Here’s what was actually in March to the Sea:
Some fighting, though it was more between the Mardukans with help from the Marines this time. The Marines were more teachers than warriors (probably because there’s now only about 30 of them, down from 200? at the start of the first book).
LOTS of explanations about everything you could think of related to military items. For example: how cannons work, the history of gunpowder/gun development on Earth, how technology develops based on your environment, various military histories from Earth, etc. These explanations take up at LEAST half the book, and they’re hard to slog through when what I want is more marching and less sit-and-wait/fighting.
Some romance. Yay for having romance at all in a military scifi book, I guess? But it’s a lackluster romance, as most of the interaction shown between Nimashet and Roger is either arguments or leering. I DO like how logical they are about it– they’re madly in love, but they’re still considering the ramifications their relationship would have on the unit/empire/etc.
More focus on the Mardukans and their various societies. This was kinda neat, especially because the closer the ocean they get, the more advanced the civilizations become. And not just technology-wise! There’s more female Mardukans taking an active role in the story this time around, which is a great change from the first book where they were mostly mute and unactive. Plus, there’s some really interesting cities and architecture to read about.
So there’s some good stuff in March to the Sea! Unfortunately, it was hidden between slow plot development and so many infodumps that I could barely stay awake while reading it. Roger’s also fairly settled into his role as military honcho here, so there’s less major personality changes than there was in the first book– which makes this second book less compelling to me. Roger still needs to find his place as newly-useful royalty, which COULD mean that the next book will have more of the fun stuff (for me), but in this one there’s barely anything to hold my interest.
Ultimately, March to the Sea was more slog than scrumptious delight. For a book with battles in every other chapter, it’s remarkably slow and plodding in places. I’m also getting tired of having those battles be the reason for tension/excitement when there’s the possibility of plenty of tension in the relationships between the characters. However! I’m still planning on reading the next book, if only because I think it takes place during a sea voyage– and there are apparently huge monsters lurking in the ocean just waiting to eat ships. And maybe Roger will get to grow some more as a person!
Read: July 13-16, 2013
Check out that cover, man. Yes, there are dinosaurs (well, alien lizard things that LOOK like dinosaurs). But I don’t remember a mullet being part of Roger’s personal style sense.