Review of 'Hellburner'

Hellburner by C.J. Cherryh

Ben Polland is quite annoyed. He had a clear path to a career at United Defense Command (UDC) security but he had been called up by Fleet Ops to visit the Sol Two battle station to see if he can figure out why his “friend” Paul Dekker was seriously injured in a flight simulation. He doesn't even like Dekker never mind being a “friend”…One of Sol Two's key functions is as a training facility where he finds the station is controlled by a despised commander with only a junior UDC officer on-hand. Talking to Dekker in the hospital Ben learns that Dekker has been attacked with his flight team's substitute killed during practice. The politicians on Earth want answers to these questions and to whether the advanced weaponry they are training to use (code name “Hellburner”) can even be controlled given the training regime employed. Dekker's mother then appears to alert the media to the situation when she quits her job and gets the lawyers involved. So now, the politicians, media, Fleet Ops and UDC are involved…How will this be resolved? Who can make sense of what is going on?

Certainly not I.

I found this book a tough slog. Cherryh certainly knows her military stuff so it is full of military acronyms, slang and, above all, politics. On reading it is this later aspect where I really started to roll my eyes - The political shenanigans and machinations are interesting - If you like that sort of thing - But if you are looking for a good SF yarn, I would suggest this it not it. Well written, to be sure, and even readable, just not very enthralling.

Having made it through it makes me wonder if this is actually a novel for readers of Cherryh's other works specifically the “Cyteen” books. There are certainly references to the “Cyteen” here. Frustratingly, if it is a tie-in with these other books it is not stated in the book itself (not the cover nor on the title pages).

If you do, for some reason, want to read Hellburner I would suggest you start by reading these other “Cyteen” books first. I think it would have helped in my potentially enjoying or even understanding this book…Slogging through, be assured that things in “Hellburner” do pick up a bit at the end…Though don't expect all of the threads to be tied up by the last page. Perhaps a bit frustrating? Yes.

Rating: “A slight glimmer of hope, but mostly awful”

Review Date: 2014-01-13

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Warner Books

Publication Date: 1993