Book Review: On the Oceans of Eternity – S.M. Stirling

S.M Stirling’s Nantucket trilogy consists of the following books:

  1. Island in the Sea of Time (1998, 609 pages)
  2. Against the Tide of Years (1999, 459 pages)
  3. On the Oceans of Eternity (2000, 633 pages)

I reviewed Island in the Sea of Time and Against the Tide of Years already. I just finished the third book now.

My comments pretty much follow the comments I made in my review of Book Two. The trilogy encompasses 1701 pages in total. Book One was pretty steady. Book Two was too long, and it would be difficult to make sense of it without having read Book One first. Book Three was way too long for what actually happened, and it would be unthinkable that you could read it without the other two first.

I was lost at times. For example, I thought the Emancipator, a giant dirigible, had crashed after the bombing run on Walkeropolis in the middle of the book, only to appear mentioned briefly at the end again, damaged, but its crew well and alive. The book jumped around way too much between many different subplots without connecting them even temporally. The California subplot, with its hero Pete Giernas, took place mostly in April of the year 11, when most of the other threads took place in the summer and fall of year 10. Why?

After more than a thousand pages of the first two books, I knew that Marian Alston was as black as charcoal, she was a super ninja and a lesbian. There were too many fight scenes with Marian always doing her ninja stuff with her katana, fighting to the death. There were too many tender scenes between Swindapa, her life partner, and her, lusting after each other. Alright, already.

Obviously, Stirling likes female warriors. The majority of the officers in the ships and in the marines seemed to be women, always tough women you’d not want to mess with. Ok, but tiring after a while.

One of the things that bothered me most was the fact that Marian, the supreme commander, the commodore, of the Islander forces, would always be the one leading the raids into the most dangerous and impossible enemy positions. That would be like Winston Churchill leading a group of marines into Hitler’s bunker to put a bullet through his head. Please, a supreme commander is too important to the military institution to risk his own life over and over again to stray bullets or knifes into her back. It just makes no sense.

Yes, there needs to be drama and suspense, and the author needs to put his key characters into dangerous situations, but frankly, this compromised the believability of the character. Marian is a character so well-defined and described, she simply would not do stupid stuff like that, but she always did and it got in the way.

This work should not have been 1700 pages in three books. It should have been one book of about 800 pages. The third book just fizzled out. Toward the end, it felt to me like the author was just getting tired of the story and needed to finish it up, like he ran out of steam.

But I did read all three books in a row, as quickly as I could suck them in. I wanted to know what happened next, how it all ended, how the Republic dealt with Walker, and what would happen to world history. I wanted to know if we’d ever find out what the Event was all about in the first place. It kept me reading, and reading, and reading.

Rating: **

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