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The Gods of Sagittarius

I can't recall the last time I read an Eric Flint book that I didn't like. His 'Belisarius' series was ground-breaking, his 'Rivers of War' series offered a well researched foray into neglected aspects of alternate history (the only complaint about which lay in the fact that he then neglected the series for a number of years), and his '1632' series was, and remains, seminal in several fields. Flint, in short, is one of the current trial blazers in science fiction, fantasy, and alt-history. He's squarely part of my 'pre-order' list, and each new novel is warmly anticipated.

Mike Resnick is, for me, a newer, slightly more acquired taste, but I enjoyed a couple of volumes in his 'Alternate ..." series a few years back, most notably 'Alternate Generals' and 'Alternative Kennedys', and his role as executive editor of 'Jim Baen's Universe' combined with his multiple Hugo awards should, one would think, be recommendation enough.

Flint and Resnick are old friends - Resnick admits as much on his website - so I could be forgive for thinking that their new collaboration, 'The Gods of Sagittarius' (Baen, 2017), would be one that would prove to be to my taste. Forgive me then, because that couldn't be further from the truth. I'm torn between wanting to describe it as "a nearly incomprehensible mix of techno-philosophical psycho-babble on steroids / LSD / hash (delete as applicable, or mix as desired)," or attaching to it the somewhat simpler classification of "weird shit, dreamt up while chewing magic mushrooms."

Don't get me wrong, it isn't badly written, per se. The language and the structure are decent enough, as you'd expect from two award-winning authors and a first-rate editorial team. But the content, the plot line, and the flow are at best erratic. peculiar, and so far off-kilter as to be, for large chunks of the book, nigh on incomprehensible.

As best I can tell, it is an attempt at the sort of light-hearted space opera that John Ringo does so well in his 'Troy Rising' series - the sort of thing that should leave you thinking, "here's an established author, who can write serious, hard sci-fi with the best of them, but has taken a break to give us something a little lighter, infused with humour and even a little pathos." Instead, Flint and Resnick leave us - presuming we make it all the way to the end of their novel - wondering 'WTF?' and 'which of these two was responsible for plotting this ... well, weird, tripped-out shit?'

Were there positives? Sure. There are some likeable enough characters, and by the end of the novel we'd starting to see some interesting interactions between them. The problem is, that only served to hint at yet more volumes to come, and makes me want to cry. Eric, if you ever happen to read this, please give 'Sagittarius' a rest, and revisit 'Rivers of War', failing which, keep working on some of the more interesting strands of '1632' - you were and are outstanding in both of those guises, all the reviewers agreed, and your fans are eagerly await the next instalments. 'Sagittarius' though? Meh ...

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