Cherryh, C. J. Hellburner.

NY: Warner, 1992.

At the conclusion of Heavy Time (which you must read before you pick this one up), Paul Dekker was drafted into Earth’s military, largely as a way of sequestering him to keep him out of the hands of the media.

Ben Pollard, whose own plans had been screwed up, decided to go along, too, to make use of his great talents in math and computers. But Dekker, being a highly talented pilot, went in a different direction, so the two haven’t seen each other for awhile — much to Ben’s relief. But then Ben is summoned to another Earth-orbiting station as “next of kin” to the hospitalized Dekker, whose crew was killed in the testing of a radical new type of warship — a “ridership” meant to clear the way for the huge troop-carrying dreadnaughts that will combat the invasion by the rebellious colonials that Earth is convinced is coming. Piloting a ship with “hellburner” engines at more than one-third the speed of light requires faster reactions than the human body is capable of, so there’s an entire computer-assist system to learn. And, naturally, Earth Company is at least as interested in making money by building these ships as it is in defeating the rebels. Cherryh demonstrates yet again her considerable talents not just in space opera but in near-alien politics and diplomatic maneuvering. As in the preceding volume, the jargon and space-speak comes thickly at times and you’ll have to pay close attention, but that only adds to the verisimilitude. These two books often are regarded as minor Cherryh — but only relatively speaking. The average quality of her writing is so high, even her “minor” works are far better than most people’s best.

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