Oftentimes, when epic series get into the middle somewhere, they tend to slow down and meander a bit. This is not the case with Like a Mighty Army, the seventh volume in the epic science fiction Safehold series by David Weber.
Nimue Alban is the last survivor who remembers the genocidal attack by the merciless Gbaba on humans. Her consciousness has been uploaded into a PICA, a highly advanced cybernetic body that allows her to continue to exist despite being over 800 years old.
She was transferred into the PICA in order to help fulfill the plans of a group which opposed the plans to change Safehold (the name of the planet) into a preindustrialized society to (hopefully) protect it from being detected by the Gbaba and destroyed. Nimue changed her appearance to that of Merlin Athrawes in order to be able to begin influencing Safehold society (due to the prevailing culture on Safehold which put generally less value on the opinions of women) and helping it prepare to defend against and defeat the Gbaba, if they ever locate Safehold.
Weber is expert at weaving long and involved tales which maintain reader interest throughout the entire series while still giving you satisfying stories in each volume. He mastered this ability in his Honor Harrington series, and this series looks to be similarly long and interesting.
The author’s love of high adventure at sea definitely comes through in this series, and much of the story is told while main and secondary characters are engaged in sea battles or fighting their way through storms (though more of this volume involves land-based activity, too, so it’s a good mix). His detailed descriptions of how things work, as well his as allowing characters to show things through their actions and thoughts, really held my interest. I truly cared about the characters (which makes sense, since I’m still reading the series seven books into it).
While the series to the current point has minimal typical science fiction content or devices being used by most of the characters, the series is quickly moving toward that. I have found it very interesting to see how Merlin/Nimue guides the progression of industrialization toward the high tech society needed to be able to win the war against the Gbaba.
My only complaint is Weber’s tendency to pontificate on various topics through his characters. While he does it in a way which doesn’t pull you out of the story, some readers may find these parts more tedious than they would like. In most instances, I don’t mind these pontifications as they really help flesh out the characters and give you a better understanding of their reasoning and actions.
I strongly recommend the Safehold series. Each of the volumes so far has hit the New York Times best seller list, and remained on it for 2-3 weeks in many cases, which shows the staying power of Weber’s works. Like a Mighty Army is a strong addition to the series, and I look forward to the next volume.
Release Date: February 18, 2014 (USA)
ISBNs: 0765321564 (9780765321565)
Publisher: Tor Books
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (minor social drinking and smoking)
Language: 2 (occasional minor and stronger expletives)
Violence: 3 (descriptions of war and injury, intense battle sequences, assassinations)