Oct 11, 2011

[Books] Battletech Warrior: Riposte (Book 2)

Battletech Warrior: Riposte (Book 2)It's somehow comforting to be back in the Inner Sphere, metaphorically speaking. My renewed access to Battletech content that is essentially new for me but technically old by the standards of the franchise has certainly proven to be a most rewarding reading exercise. It's the find of light, easy reading that makes you feel like writing such stories is relatively easy and that giant Battlemechs lie just around the corner.

And this is probably the furthest back into the series that I've ever ventured given these books were very difficult for me to find even when the books were regularly being stocked on the shelves of local bookstores. Science fiction always gets the short end of the stick in terms of the local book market and more obscure franchise like this that rarely manage to get on the likes of the New York Times' Bestseller list really have a hard time getting out there.

The first book in the series was certainly interesting, although not necessarily that compelling, I'll admit. It certainly touched on a critical event in the history of the Inner Sphere, but it handled it in a manner that possessed limited literary value as many characters were simply who they were and not much else beyond that. Still, we press on to see how this trilogy pans out, of the few in the Battletech series as a whole.

Warrior: Riposte is the second title in Michael A. Stackpole's Warrior trilogy of Battletech novels. It continues to cover the events around 3027 just as  Hanse Davion is poised to marry the young Melissa Steiner.

In the last book, we saw Justin Xiang, formerly Allard, made a full citizen of the Capellan Confederatino in service to Maximilian Liao. Given his inside knowledge of the Federated Suns, it becomes natural for him to be appointed a member of the Maskirovka, the Chancellor's spy network. He now works alongside Tsen Shang, the man who recruited him on Solaris VII. And while Tsen has managed to capture the heart (or at least the attentions) of the Chancellor's daughter Romano, he seems to be involved in an odd near-courtship with her sister, Candace.

And they have their hands full with the official announcement that the Davion-Steiner alliance is going to be cemented by the wedding of Prince Hanse Davion to the daughter of Archon Katrina Steiner, the young Melissa Steiner who had been rescued in the last book. And as all the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere prepare to attend the greatest wedding of the period to be held on Terra itself. And as the Inner Sphere scrambles to deal with the news of the coming marriage, Morgan Kell of the Kell Hounds finally comes out of retirement. And he returns not just because his brother Patrick was killed in the last book, but more because his old enemy Yorinaga has returned with his new Genyosha unit.

Photos from Gen Con Indy 2007. Part BattleTech...Image via WikipediaLike in the previous book, the whole Morgan Kell - Yorinaga Kurita story felt like it was the weakest plot point in the whole book. For some reason it it just never really worked for me despite the obvious efforts to link the two my some mystical bond as warriors. Since it was never very clear what this bond was supposed to mean or how it worked, it never really gives you anything to latch on to. For a predominantly science fiction style franchise, this whole bit of mysticism and their weird ability to disrupt targeting computers just never really made sense.

The big thing of course was the wedding, and the build-up to the event was decent enough. It's just a shame that they didn't try to depict how Hanse fell in love with Melissa. Instead we just have to accept the fact that they do love one another even though the characters don't really get to do anything that showcases this or even supports this assertion. Thus one can't help but feel that this is just a political marriage, when later on it is revealed that somehow there's more to it.

And of course there's Justin's continued attempts to prove of value to the madman that is Maximilian Liao. Some would argue that surviving the Chancellor himself is a far greater challenge than being on the front line between the Capellan Confederation and the Federated Suns or something similar. It was certainly interesting to get a better look at how things work behind that particular curtain since most other books only feature moments of time with Maximilian in order to reinforce how crazy he can get and that's about it.

The book still had a decent amount of action, especially once we get the whole wedding out of the way. There were certainly some good moments, especially in the combat sequences where Stackpole's writing really excels. The book also touched on some interesting plot points that play a role in the larger scheme of things - in this case some of the secrets of Comstar.

The book was okay but nothing stellar on its own. But while I had known about many of the events in this title before because of anecdotal references, it was certainly still more enjoyable to actually read how the events unfold. And of course the wedding itself was the high point - one worth the investment in this book as a whole.

Warrior: Riposte is a good addition to the franchise and a key piece of the overall meta plot of the franchise. The writing could be better, but Stackpole starts to shine with time and thus this book is an interesting look back. Riposte still gets a worthy 3.5 interesting wedding plates out of a possible 5.

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