- Mass Market Paperback: 768 pages
- Publisher: Baen Books (Aug. 1 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 074347144X
- ISBN-13: 978-0743471442
- Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 3.6 x 17.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: 37 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #434,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Shiva Option Mass Market Paperback – Aug 1 2003
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." . . this novel and its predecessors more than fill the bill in the military SF subgenre."
"Fans of space opera who have been eagerly awaiting this sequel to Weber and White's In Death Ground won't be disappointed, to put it mildly . . . all the verisimilitude of a technothriller . . . characterizations are strong and vivid . . . leaving the reader both exhilarated and enriched."
"Swift action and conflict mark this alien/human drama."
"Weber and White...[leave] the reader both exhilarated and enriched."
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I read the earlier book, IN DEATH GROUND, which begins the story told in THE SHIVA OPTION.
One aspect of IN DEATH GROUND that kept me on the edge of my seat was the defeat of mankind and his allies. From the first collision with the bugs, the war began to go badly for man -- and it went more and more wrong.
At the end of IN DEATH GROUND man and his allies were fighting a desperate last-ditch battle at Alpha Centauri, which in this story was the web link directly to Sol -- and Earth. This battle was only won by a hair-- and by some extraordinary good luck. In other words, mankind was hanging on by their fingernails, and the bugs were prying those fingers loose! When IN DEATH GROUND ended, mankind was in imminent peril of going down to annihilation.
The continuation of the story in THE SHIVA OPTION has an opposite character. Men and their allies begin winning early in the book, and the victories are big. In every battle, while there are losses on both sides, Terra wipes out ten bugs for each human (or allied) death. As men and their allies rack up a chain of major victories, the book actually gets less and less interesting. By the midpoint of this book, the ending seems a foregone conclusion. Man is sure to win "by a knockout." As we plow through the final half of this very large book, we wonder if we really need to "observe" each and every individual bug planet go down to destruction.
One very interesting new element that adds to THE SHIVA OPTION is the reemergence of the bugs' "old enemy." Men are the bugs' new enemy, of course. The old enemy had disappeared by fleeing the bugs centuries before-- a last strategy to avoid racial destruction. Now, suddenly they are back!
It is very bad karma that the bugs should once again collide with their old enemies while in the middle of a war of attrition with mankind. They are already losing-- now they have to divert a major part of their fleets to counter this new threat.
I liked THE SHIVA OPTION a lot. But unfortunately, one-third into the book you realize that the end is a foregone conclusion--that mankind is stretching out a great technological lead and increasingly wiping out fleets of bug ships. So where's the suspense? I still plowed through to the end because the battle descriptions are so well done. Weber (with White, I suppose) has to be one of the very best future war writers out there, along with David Drake and Keith Laumer.
This duology describes a war similar in many ways to the Pacific theater of World War II. The enemy has the worst aspects of the Japanese military, but exaggerated to the ultimate degree. IDG has the desperate battles prior to Midway and the Coral Sea and TSO has the grinding battles thereafter, successively retaking island after island until finally Okinawa is taken. The Divine Wind is prominent in this book, but the amphibious assaults and ground combat of that war are mostly eliminated by the Shiva Option. Considering that the defensive phase of war in the Pacific took only a few months yet the offensive phase took four and half years, it is obvious why this book is so long. If the enemy can be stopped, it most often must be done quickly or not at all; defeating the enemy, however, is long and hard.
The prologue occurs shortly after the failure of Operation Pesthouse. Fleeing the Bugs, Survey Fleet 19 encounters a new set of sentient beings, the Star Union of Crucis, who have already had violent contact with the Bugs. This new group joins with SF19 to destroy the pursuing Bug fleet and then both withdraw to the Star Union.
Meanwhile, back at Alpha Centauri, the Joint Chiefs of the Grand Fleet, and their staffs, meet to discuss strategy now that the Bugs have terminated their current offensives. Naval Intelligence reports that a new class of warships, designated Monitors and even larger than superdreadnoughts, has been deployed by the Bugs. They also state that analysis of the Bug artifacts has shown five distinctly different construction techniques, probably indicating five separate manufacturing centers, designated as Home Hives. Moreover, the initial Bug contact was probably with Home Hive Five.
After a spate of shipbuilding and stockpiling, the Grand Fleet takes the offensive at Zephrain. Sixth Fleet sneaks into the enemy system through a closed warp point. Since the warp point is not known to the Bugs and therefore unguarded, Sixth Fleet precedes under cloaking and successfully engages their initial targets before being detected. After they destroy the Orbital Weapons Platforms and fight off a suicide attack, they send in the fighters to attack the planet with weapons of mass destruction. The resulting megadeaths create a traumatic disturbance in the surviving Bug population that greatly degrades their performance and the fleet sterilizes the system. Later analysis determines that the system was Home Hive Three.
The remainder of the novel is a series of strategic offensives against the remaining Home Hives. Like its prequel, this volume is full of spatial warfare. It also includes several nuclear bombardments of enemy planets -- the Shiva Option -- and one planetary assault with subsequent ground combat.
The Arachnid civilization in Starfire owes a lot to the Bugs in Heinlein's Starship Troopers, but the approach in this series is entirely different and much wider in scope. These novels concentrate primarily on naval combat and equipment; the only use of armored combat suits is by the Telikans in the above mentioned planetary assault.
It is obvious from this novel that the Arachnids are telepathic and form group minds within each Home Hive system. Since Bug telepathy cannot bridge warp points, smaller group minds must exist within each separated system or fleet unit. Moreover, the Arachnids have specialized warrior and worker castes and, since there are Bug analysts, probably also have a thinker caste. No information on Bug propagation is available in this novel, so it cannot be determined if the hives are organized around a queen as in the Heinlein novel.
This novel also makes it obvious that the Arachnid civilization has never developed psychosocially beyond the pure survival level. Since the entire Arachnid population can be considered to be only five true individuals, social relationship would obviously remain simple. Thus, each Home Hive and its auxiliary units would behave much like its spider namesake: rapacious and efficient. Maybe it's good that we don't know anything about their sex life or reproductive methods.
My one criticism of this novel is the portrayal of politicians; everyone of them has the civilian mindset. So do the reporters, but who cares. Why aren't there any ex-military politicians? Surely the Fringe Worlds, at least, would sent a few reservist to the Legislative Assembly.
This novel is recommended to those who like realpolitik, naval combat, and politician bashing -- i.e., Heinlein fans -- and inside jokes (think Operation Bughouse). If a sequel is forthcoming, I hope it takes less time. And I further hope there are a few knowledgeable politicians -- such as in HH novels -- in the next one.
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