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A State of Disobedience by Tom Kratman

Cover art by Stephen Hickman

Published by Baen Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

This is a difficult book to review, because it should have been so much better. It reads like the first draft of what could have been a really great book.

The ideas are thought-provoking, but the storytelling simply fails to come to life. Time and again there are powerful combat scenes that almost spark, but don't catch fire. These are interspersed with lengthy passages that read more like a textbook than a work of fiction.

There are some notable strengths, such as the absence of racism or even sexism in the characterization. The heroes represent a broad cross-section of America's ethnic backgrounds and rarely use racial slurs, while the villains regularly refer to Texas' Mexican-American governor as a "wetback" and generally treat others with contempt. The villainous woman President could easily have been a "look at what happens when uppity women get out of their place" character, were it not for the quiet strength of the governor of Texas, also a woman.

Unfortunately, they simply don't make up for the fatal weaknesses of the writing. Given that this is the author's first book, and he has mastered two professions (military officer and lawyer), one may hope that he will be able to learn from the mistakes of this book and master yet a third. However, it is likely that will happen only if someone will sit down and actually edit his next book and make him learn how to correct his weaknesses.

Review posted March 28, 2004

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