The Two-Space War, by Dave Grossman and Leo Frankowski

Not a flawless book, The Two-Space War has the definite feel of the debut of a series still finding its sea-legs.

Nevertheless, it’s a voyage worth completing, and I enjoyed it increasingly as I went on.

The set-up is kind of complicated, which slows down the action at the start. This is a standard problem in stories set in unfamiliar worlds, but I thought the authors did as good a job as anyone in weaving the info dumps into the narrative.

The premise is that humans have learned to travel to distant galaxies, by traveling through “Two-Space,” the second dimension. The trade-off is that all but the simplest early Industrial Revolution technology rapidly deteriorates in Two-Space. So the ships by which people travel there have to be wooden ships, similar to those of the Napoleonic era, with interesting differences.

As the story opens, Lt. Thomas Melville and a landing party are stranded on a distant planet, battling thirst and suicidal, ape-like monsters. They await rescue by their mother ship. They were recently attacked by a ship of the evil Guldur Empire, and their captain’s death has left him acting commander.

Through skill and military discipline, he manages to save his landing party from the apes. Shortly thereafter they are picked up by their mother ship, only to learn that the ship (their ships are sentient) is dying, and that the Guldur are coming in fast.

Lt. Melville determines not to take refuge on the primitive planet, but to employ a bold strategy against the Guldur ship. So begins a story that steadily builds in dramatic tension, and draws the reader both through suspense and with interesting, likeable, growing characters.

In some ways I found the world-building a little self-indulgent, by my personal reckoning. The universe Lt. Melville and his crew explore is notable for planets containing elves and planets containing dwarfs, and so (in this narrative) J.R.R. Tolkien is considered an actual prophet. His books are venerated as if they were Scripture. There are also numerous references to the “classic” writers of the 20th Century—such as Heinlein, Weber and Pratchitt. In this version of the future, Science Fiction is considered the highest literary form. Elements of Tolkien, Patrick O’Brien, and (perhaps) Kenneth Roberts rub together in this universe, not always seamlessly (in my opinion), but in the end the authors make it work.

I’m not sure what to say about religious matters (the future seems to be vaguely Christian, in a syncretist sort of way), or the issue of women in combat, which is addressed so eccentrically that it’s hard to draw a conclusion what the authors think.

But the real heart of this book is the battle scenes. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (full disclosure: he sent me a free review copy) is a retired officer of the Army Rangers, a former professor of Psychology at West Point, and a recognized authority on the physiological and psychological effects of combat on human beings. His descriptions of the experience of battle are as authentic as any you’ll ever come across, and they in themselves make The Two-Space War a moving and unforgettable read. I’m serious about this. The combat scenes are worth the price of the book all by themselves.

Once I got acclimated I was riveted. I recommend the book highly, and hope there’s a sequel.

11 thoughts on “The Two-Space War, by Dave Grossman and Leo Frankowski”

  1. I used to do PR for Dave Grossman for this series. He hired me for an hourly rate, and I quit when I saw I was useless for the job – I spend tens of hours and only got one review. That was long before I started reading your blog, and long before I got the idea to send you a copy for review.

    I also did the type setting for the paper books on Lulu.

  2. I think that Dave Grossman suffers from the same problem you do: good writing, bad business. Or, to be more accurate, bad branding.

    One of the greatest professional assets a fiction author is a brand name. Most of us can barely afford the time to read our favorite authors, let alone new ones. Therefore, in the marketplace competition for selling books, being a known author is incredibly valuable.

    Both you and Dave Grossman have other jobs and finish a book every few years. This means that Joe Casual Reader reads a book of yours and likes it. Then, two years later, Joe sees another book for sale in the book store, and if he remembers how much he liked the first one he might buy it.

    However, during that time Joe read and enjoyed five or six books by full time authors such as Dave Freer or Tom Kratman. He remembers them a lot better than he remembers you. If he had to choose, he’ll choose them.

    It is possible to get a writing career going on one book a year, Bujold did it – but it’s a lot harder. I think Baen is simply not interested in using its limited slots (6 per month) on people who aren’t going to write continuously and build a strong brand. They have enough brands that need to be maintained.

    BTW, this is the reason I gave up on trying to write fiction in this stage of my life. I have four young kids and a job. There is no way I’ll spend the time needed to become a successful author.

  3. Exactly. I suspect Baen believe they can only make a profit out of you if you write at least 3 good books a year.

    For you, Nordskog Publishing is probably a much better fit. They cannot afford to lose money, but I think they are primarily in the business to win souls. It means that lower profit margins are acceptable.

    Dave Grossman’s work doesn’t have such a venue. There are multiple bodies interested in teaching people to be professional fighters, who use Dave Grossman’s other resources. However, there aren’t many groups interested in helping amateurs who won’t read professional literature or attend lectures.

  4. Well, Lars,

    I am happy to know that Lars, the King of the Local Vikings is the new rising star of ……. ah… the air-waves! You no longer need fear the black melancholies. The ragged worm of self-defeating self-talk is now a thing of the past. You are now, indeed an author par-excellence! I am proud to know that we hold the same last name and a little similar blood.

    Soon Vikings from all corners of the world and walks of life will make a pilgrimage to your home.

    Soon, you house will be like the one in Winterset, Iowa, where John Wayne was born and raised!

    So, now, I bow and reference you as Lars– RADIO PERSONALITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ta daaaaaaaaaaa

  5. Alas, the house where I grew up burned down, in a blaze of glory on a stormy winter night, back around 1986. I thought at the time that it was a tremendous loss to future Kenyon tourism.

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