Most helpful positive review
A good start for a new era in the BattleTech saga
on April 20, 2004
Since WizKids bought out the BattleTech/MechWarrior franchise from the now defunct FASA, they have pulled a number of surprises on me. The nastiest was going into the local bookstore, checking out the latest MechWarrior book, and seeing the date "3132" in the first chapter's header. I nearly passed out.
But after recovering from the shock, I picked up a copy of what was apparently the first novel in this new series (they need a better way to show what order they were in, although I had no trouble figuring it out from Amazon.com). Though initially skeptical-- I mean, I liked the old era and its characters!-- I was not disappointed.
Ghost War is very different from previous BattleTech favorites of mine, but it is still BattleTech. The first major change is that it is told from a first-person perspective. This was vital to the story, I later came to understand, but still somewhat of a shock. It is different stylistically (due to the entire story being colored by the perceptions of the main character, Sam Donelly). And finally, the new era still threw me off a hundred pages into the book. But after the shock of the surface differences, it becomes clear that not only was the move sixty-five years into the future a good idea, but having Stackpole handle it was also a good move.
The plot is twisting and convoluted, almost (but not quite) confusing at times. There is plenty of political intrigue and an element that has been a strong and important part of BattleTech, the concept that mankind will never cease to fight amongst themselves, is still preeminent. Stackpole handles the introduction of the new time period very well, and the main character, Sam Donelly, is well-constructed and entertaining. The use of humor through Sam's eyes is very well done also. Finally, the appearance (I won't call it cameo because I have a feeling he will be back) by none other than Victor Steiner-Davion was well appreciated and a good way to connect back to the old era.
If I had to complain, I would note that, like others have said, there is too little 'Mech action, but there is a reason for this (and there will be more action later on in the series). Also, Sam seems to be a little too perfect in some ways; it's not that he isn't flawed, but he is extremely versatile. Nonetheless I found myself rooting for him the whole time.
Another thing that bugs me is that Stackpole seemed to slip back into Star Wars at least once in the book, referencing a "holdout blaster" when the rest of the time they are "holdout lasers". But this minor editorial issue can be forgiven.
Overall an intriguing and entertaining read. I'll certainly buy more in the series, and I am anxiously awaiting MechWarrior 5.