by RM Meluch
Published by DAW, Jan. 2, 2006
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Space Opera, Character-Driven Plots
Reviewed by Tamara Martin
The U.S.S. Merrimack was the finest battleship class spaceship in Earth's fleet, able to stand up against the best the Palatine Empire could throw at them, even able to attack and kill swarms of the seemingly unstoppable Hive. But nothing could have prepared the captain and crew of the Merrimack to face the Myriad-three colonized worlds in the midst of a globular cluster that the Hive had somehow overlooked.
The Myriad tells the tale of the US battleship Merrimack. It takes place a few hundred years in the future where the US is now tentatively allied with the planet Palatine (aka Rome). Apparently, ancient Rome never fell. It lived on in the hearts of thousands of people who continued its ancient traditions in a secret society on Earth and when they saw an opportunity to colonize another planet where they could live in the open, they did. And America didn’t like this too much. And so a civil war ensued. The reader enters this story after Rome is brought to its knees by an alien menace that has hit them so hard that they ally with their long-time enemies, the Americans, in order to jointly tackle their new foe. The history of hostility is explained to the reader in such a manner that you almost feel like you experienced it with the characters. The author, Meluch, deftly weaves together the present with a concise account of how it relates to past events.
We are introduced to a variety of characters aboard the Merrimack and the story is told through shifting perspectives. Captain Farragut is the charismatic captain of the Merrimack. We are at first told of how the crew loves him, adores him, because of how he is but then we are shown what a strong, compassionate, caring, and tenacious personality he has. Lt. Colonel TR Steele commands the Marines aboard the Merrimack. Steele is stoic and single-minded and awkward when it comes to anything warm and fuzzy. His personality is opposite to Farragut. Kerry Blue is the young Marine pilot under Steele’s command. Calli Carmel is the second in command of Merrimack who was schooled on Palatine during one of the brief cease-fires between Rome and the US. And then there is Augustus, the Roman patterner. He is part man, part machine, and wholly mysterious. He is a Roman soldier with a modified body who can find seemingly-unconnected patterns in information when he is jacked into a computer. He despises the US, the tentative peace, and, especially, Captain John Farragut. He is only on board the Merrimack temporarily so that his unique skill set can be used to defeat the common enemy, the Hive. Enemies are tense allies in this world because they face annihilation by alien beings that defy logic and physics. The Merrimack’s mission is to find the Hive homeworld and destroy it. But, while on the hunt they come across a unique stellar body with habitable planets and this is where our adventure begins.
Meluch has delved into the stuff of nightmares to create an adversary to Rome and the US. Simply put, the Hive are monsters. They ball together to travel through space and when they come upon a ship they tear their way inside and eat everything. They consume without thought. There is no negotiating with them or asking for mercy. They do not care. They only eat.
Meluch is a fantastic story teller. She has put together a character-driven novel that is pure fun. This novel will appeal to the reader who likes a more space opera-type of story but don’t let that fool you, there are tense battles and stellar physics discussions aplenty. If you like a plot-driven novel with textbook-like explanations of the science behind everything then you will not like this novel. The characters in this book are funny and smart and you feel very in-the-moment with them. But, it isn’t just the characters that are appealing in The Myriad. Meluch’s style of writing is, in my opinion, beguiling. She sometimes tells you the story and sometimes let’s the characters tell the story. In one moment she may let the characters speak and then in the next she narrates what is being said. Meluch’s voice is both unique and charming. She creates a world that you can buy into.
It can be said that Meluch is also very brave. You will not see the end of the book coming. It is abrupt to the point that I had to re-read several pages and was convinced that there was a glitch in my eReader that erased some pages. Meluch takes quite a leap. She risks alienating her readers and, from some online reviews that I read, she did. I can assure you of this though, the story is worth it and the ending is part of a bigger picture. She had to end The Myriad the way she did because without it she would not be able to tell the captivating story which follow in books 2-5.
If you like character-driven novels in the vein of Tanya Huff’s Valor series or John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War book then you will like the Tour of the Merrimack. I couldn’t put it down.
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About the Reviewer:
Tamara is a law enforcement officer in Florida. When not working she can often be found with her nose buried in a book. Twitter: @TamaraM612