Starting an Epic

At long last, I’ve started rereading Safehold.  The new book, At the Sign of Triumph, is out on Election Day, but amazon won’t deliver it until somewhere between the fourteenth and the seventeenth.  Regardless, these are not small books, and it will take me most, if not all of that time, to reread them.  Really, we’re talking close to Robert Jordan size.  The first book, Off Armageddon Reef, is the only one I have in paperback and it’s about two inches thick.  I’m also afraid that all this rereading will see the cover falling off or something.  It’s also too tall to fit in my saga-sized book cover, so I have to read it coverless.  I also make sure to use a thin, coverstock bookmark because again, I don’t want to do more damage to this thing than I have to.

Before I talk about the series, let’s look into how I found it.  The month was June.  The year was 2008.  And I was in Dublin, Ireland.  It was a three week program, a study abroad trip through my university.  Everyone, from the professors to the students, was from Bradley, no locals involved.  We had a three or four hour class in the morning, then we were free until class started the next morning (when our nightly homework had better be done), minus the one day when we had a trip for all sections and the couple nights we had activities for all sections.  I was in the philosophy course, something about Art and Humanities.  There were two other courses, both on Travel Writing.

It was a lot of fun, staying in one of Dublin’s suburbs and wandering around each day.  My professor liked to bring us to one of the museums downtown (which all had free admission!), give us our assignment for the day, and then turn us loose.  His thought was then we’d already be downtown, having lost none of our free time getting there.  There were so many things to see and do, that it wasn’t until I had a classless day near the end of the trip that I wandered into a bookstore.

You can’t honestly expect that I wouldn’t have gone in, can you?  After all, this was Ireland.  They spoke English.  And while they also spoke Gaelic, the odds were in my favor of finding books I could read without trying to translate.  I was browsing the sci-fi/fantasy section as I usually do, keeping an eye out for names I recognized.  One of those happened to be David Weber.  At that point in time, I was mostly familiar with his work with the Bolo books and The Excalibur Alternative.  I may have found the Bazhell books by then, but I can’t recall.  Point being, I knew enough to pick the unfamiliar book off of the shelf and glance at the back.

I was intrigued, but you know, I didn’t really need another book.  After all, I had so many at home.  Yet I kept glancing back.  I simply couldn’t leave the store without it.  Take a look below, and see for yourself why.


Let me tell you, the US version does not have nearly as striking a cover.  The typography on the US version leaves a lot to be desired – everything’s in caps, all the same size…it’s just not nearly as visually compelling.  Less than thirty words is all it takes to hook a person when their laid out properly. Less than twenty, if you leave out the last line about the epic of the decade.  Six, really, when you get down to it.  Admittedly, it has been nearly a decade – Off Armageddon Reef was first published in 2007.  And because of a well-designed Irish back cover, I’ve been reading it from the second year of its existence.

Safehold begins with humanity’s war against the Gbaba (no, we don’t actually know what the aliens call themselves as they are disinclined towards communication, but this is what somebody called them and it stuck) and the fact that our race was doomed.  A desperate last-ditch attempt allows a single colony fleet to escape and establish a new home.  Some 750 years later, a young woman wakes up in a cave with the mission of returning her race to the stars.

This series allows David Weber’s love for military fiction – 19th century naval battles in particular – to shine.  I’ve mentioned this in contrast to Elizabeth Haydon’s War of the Known World, which included very little war.  Weber goes to the opposite tack.

This post was initially going to be a lot longer and do more analysis of Safehold and the Church and whatnot, but what with Halloween and family and the World Series going on, it has taken me twice as long to finish Off Armageddon Reef as it normally would.  But it is finished, and you can expect better when I finish By Schism Rent Asunder.


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