Robert J. Sawyer's Wiping Out

First contact between humans and Altairians did not go well and now the two species are at war. The war has raged on for years, with heavy casualties on both sides. Now, one Ambrose Donner, Captain of the Pteranodon, an elite fighting vessel of the Trisystems Interstellar Guard, has his sights set on going down in history as the one who ended the war and claimed victory for Earth once and for all - if he can survive long enough to complete the mission.

I should preface this review by stating that I am not a fan of war stories. Descriptions of gunfire, tactical manoeuvrings, explosions and the like do not interest me. (I suppose I am the antithesis of the mass market consumer. If a movie trailer contains more than one explosion - and you know those trailers will pack in every last one in the flick - that is one movie which I will not be going to see.) In my opinion, so-called science fiction which simply takes a traditional war story and moves the battleground into space is one of the worst abuses of the genre there is. That being said, I can now confess that I loved Wiping Out - and, make no mistake, Wiping Out is a war story - over half of the text is a description of a space battle! So what gives?

Robert J. Sawyer's usual top notch writing is what. Through most descriptions of space warfare, I find my mind drifting - bored by details which don't enable me to envision the scenario at all. Sawyer's battle, however, is clearly visualized and the technology behind it cohesive. He even manages to slip in a few gems of his characteristic humour, and the explosions - well, I won't spoil the tech for you - let's just say that the explosions are just my style. Add to this the fact that the space battle, while taking up much space, is not really the focus of the story but more so the vehicle through which Sawyer presents his thoughtful and thought-provoking message, and you have a good read which will appeal to both aficionados of space battles and those of us searching for anything but.