Off Armageddon Reef Review

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*Starred Review* Earth has been destroyed by an alien invasion, and survivors are clinging to a precarious and primitive existence on a planet they have named Safehold. But they are divided into two major factions: a theocratic church opposed to all technological progress, and a secular class of aristocrats and merchants who support not only technology but expanding the habitable area of Safehold. There are factions and internal conflicts on both sides, and each has infiltrated the other. A good many of the book's main players are seafarers and naval officers, and they sail Safehold's seas in ships that Horatio Hornblower might find familiar. They are drawn as well as one expects of Weber, although they are so numerous that, despite the appended cast list, readers may feel mnemonically challenged. Staunch Weber fans may be disappointed by the lack of any Safehold life-form as irresistibly charming as the treecats of the Honorverse (the world of his space-faring heroine Honor Harrington). Safehold's abundant pelagic life is mostly predatory and sometimes outright deadly, and its land dwellers are only slightly cuddlier. Altogether, there is enough conflict to allow a natural storyteller like Weber to make a large, splendid novel that opens another saga. The saga being Weber's form of choice and high achievement, hopes for the rest of it are definitely elevated. Roland GreennCopyright American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. n