Thursday Reviews: In Her Name: Empire, 1776


Michael R. Hicks

Reza Gard is the child of human colonists who are slaughtered by the Kreelan, a fierce alien humanoid race who are relentless in their campaign against the Confederation. Reza survives an encounter with a warrior priestess and is rescued. Only he winds up on a farm planet that’s a dumping ground for war orphans. Somehow, Reza manages to bring the Confederation down on the abusive orphanage system as well. So, Reza’s set, right? Wait until he’s old enough and become a Marine.

Well… The Kreelan have other ideas. They kidnap all the children on the farming planet and take them back to their empire. Reza is then bonded to a warrior named Esah-Zhurah, who treats him like an animal. Reza, despite being looked upon by Kreelan society as little more than a domesticated beast, is to train with Esah-Zhurah and bond with her to determine if humans do, in fact, have souls. What starts out as a captor-prisoner relationship becomes, over time, a partnership, then a friendship, and eventually, love.

This is Hicks’ first Kreelan novel, and the first chapter is a little shaky to get through. But once the focus is squarely on Reza and his ever-shifting situation, Hicks catches his groove. The story has a strong YA appeal and is light on high tech trappings. The Kreelan use space ships and heavy weapons to deal with humans in interstellar space, but their homeworld is rather medieval in its culture and architecture. That’s not to say this is a sword and sorcery tale. Far from it. The Kreelan are as alien as one can get while still closely resembling humans, and the absence of males is one of the more original twists on alien mating habits I’ve seen in a while. (I suspect Hicks is a Larry Niven fan.)

Currently, the book is free on Amazon, but if you miss the giveaway, it’s still worth the normal $2.99.


David McCullough

I read this one a few years ago, and this time I revisited it on audio. McCullough’s history of the year America declared independence shows just how the odds were against the fledgling nation. It also shows how King George III blew it before anyone in Congress said the word “independence” on the record. Rather than asking the colonies what the problem was (Siphoning off money and restricting commerce without allowing anyone to represent them in Parliament), His Majesty send the Brothers Howe to lay the smack down on Boston. With an untrained army of farmers ready to leave the minute their enlistments ended, George Washington noticed that the British army had holed up in Boston, then limited to a single peninsula. After pilfering a few old cannons from a former British force in upstate New York, the Continental Army simply cut off the city, took over Dorchester Heights, and proceeded to shell the British. They left.

Now, of course, it’s easy to get cocky when you just chased the world’s first superpower out of town. And that’s exactly what the Continental Army did when they moved to New York to defend against a British invasion. The army got cocky. Washington, historically the very definition of confidence and stability, seems to have lost his mojo. In Washington’s defense, he was undermined by General Charles Lee, a man who thought himself the George Washington of his generation (which, incidentally, was also Washington’s generation) and had to do without Nathaniel Green, stricken by illness as the British invaded Long Island. Much is made of Washington’s cat-and-mouse games with the British in the woods of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the hardiness of his men during that rough winter at Valley Forge, and the surprising discipline showed in the South after the arrival of Lafayette and von Steuben. However, it all nearly came to an end in a comedy of errors in New York, when Washington couldn’t make up his mind how whether to attack or retreat and seemed afraid to make a move without Congress.

It took a humiliating rout in Manhattan to cure him of that. By the time, Washington reached Trenton in December, he had resolved to use the British army’s overconfidence to his advantage, taking the Hessians in New Jersey prisoner on Christmas Day, 1776. That was enough to convince his demoralized army to give him an extra month on their enlistments, during which Washington repeated the feat. That in turn guaranteed fresh recruits for Washington and an end to any hope the British had for a short war in North America.

All narrated by David McCullough.