The Shiva Option (Starfire Series #4)

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Overview

Defeat was not an option. The war wasn't going well. The mind-numbingly alien Arachnids were an enemy whose like no civilized race had ever confronted. Like some carnivorous cancer, the "Bugs" had overrun planet after planet ... and they regarded any competing sentient species as only one more protein source. They couldn't be reasoned with, or even talked to, because no one had the least idea of how to communicate with a telepathic species with no recognizable language ... and whose response to any communication ...
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Overview

Defeat was not an option. The war wasn't going well. The mind-numbingly alien Arachnids were an enemy whose like no civilized race had ever confronted. Like some carnivorous cancer, the "Bugs" had overrun planet after planet ... and they regarded any competing sentient species as only one more protein source. They couldn't be reasoned with, or even talked to, because no one had the least idea of how to communicate with a telepathic species with no recognizable language ... and whose response to any communication attempt was a missile salvo. No one knew how large their civilization--if it could be called a "civilization"--actually was, or how it was organized, but the huge fleets they threw against their opponents suggested that it was enormous. The Grand Alliance of Humans, Orions, Ophiuchi, and Gorm, united in desperate self-defense, have been driven to the wall. Billions of their civilians have been slaughtered. Their most powerful offensive operation has ended in shattering defeat and the deaths of their most experienced and revered military commanders. The edge in technology with which they began the war is eroding out from under them and whatever they do, the Bugs just keep coming. But the warriors of the Grand Alliance know what stands behind them and they will surrender no more civilians to the oncoming juggernaut. They will die first ... and they will also reactivate General Directive 18, however horrible it may be. Because when the only possible outcomes are victory or racial extermination, only one option is acceptable.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
David Weber and Steve White's popular Starfire military science fiction series (Insurrection, Crusade, and In Death Ground), which takes place in the Starfire role-playing game universe, continues in The Shiva Option.

After the events of Operation Pesthouse, the "most overwhelming disaster in the history of the Terran Federation Navy," humankind and its alien allies must regroup to fight the carnivorous Arachnids, seemingly unstoppable invaders bent on galactic domination -- and consumption.

The Arachnids (more commonly referred to as Bugs) are easy to hate. Reminiscent of Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Trooper insectoid antagonists, they are relentless, merciless killing machines. "The radially symmetrical being bore neither relation nor resemblance to any Terran lifeform. But the six upward-angled limbs surrounding and supporting the central pod, the whole covered with coarse black hair, made it easy to see why the term 'arachnid' had been applied. Those limbs rose to pronounced 'knuckles' well above the central pod before angling downward once more, and two other limbs ended in 'hands' of four mutually opposable 'fingers' while above the eight limbs were eight stalked eyes, evenly spaced around the pod's circumference. And if all that hadn't been sufficient to show that this thing had evolved from nothing that ever lived on Old Terra, there was the mouth -- a wide gash low in the body-pod, filled with lampreylike rows of teeth and lined with wiggling tentacles. Everyone present knew what those tentacles were for: to hold living prey immobilized for ingestion."

In this, the Fourth Interstellar War, humankind has joined together in a Grand Alliance with several other alien races (including the catlike Orions) in a desperate attempt to defeat the swarming Arachnids once and for all. Together, the races try to figure out a way to stop wave after wave of attacking Bug spacecraft armed to the teeth with antimatter missiles and warheads.

But when the Federation Fleet finds one of the Arachnids' home worlds (Home Hive Three) and destroys it using overwhelming force and the element of surprise, a flaw in the Bugs' defense is discovered. When thousands of "civilian" Bugs are killed en masse, their communication system throughout the whole system is temporarily slowed and the ships are aimless without instructions. But with the Bugs' superior numbers and very quick learning curve, will the Alliance be able to capitalize on this weakness?

Long forgotten in the epic galactic war is Fleet Survey Flotilla 19, believed destroyed in Operation Pesthouse years earlier. Rear Admiral Aileen Sommers and the rest of her crew have been missing for five and a half years. After fleeing through a warp point into the unknown, the humans thought they were safe. But the Bugs tracked the fleet down and were in the process of wiping them out when they were attacked and destroyed by a mysterious force -- a new alien race with new technology! Will Sommers and her new friends (the Star Union of Crucis) be able to get back in time to help the Alliance before the Bugs defeat them?

The role-playing game origins of this series are evident in this novel. The Starfire universe is filled with warp points -- shortcuts to other systems -- which make military strategies even more complex. The discovery of a warp point into the Bugs' Home Hive One, for instance, is a huge break for the Alliance -- that is, if it isn't another trap.

Hard-core military science fiction fans will thoroughly enjoy this series: There's literally nonstop action, great subplots involving the tenuous relationships between humans and other races in the Grand Alliance, and an enemy that you can't help but despise. (Paul Goat Allen)

Publishers Weekly
Fans of space opera who have been eagerly awaiting this sequel to Weber and White's In Death Ground (1997) won't be disappointed, to put it mildly. Humanity and its various allies find themselves under attack by an enemy with whom no communication, let alone coexistence, is possible, since their foes lack individual sentience and are driven by a Darwinian imperative to regard all other life forms as food sources. Countered against this nightmare are an assortment of diverse species, some unknown to one another, who share the ability to make moral choices, "including the ultimate choice of sacrificing that very individual consciousness in the name of what all of us recognize, in one form or another, for what it is: honor." This capacity is stretched when it is discovered that, in this war, genocide is a tactical weapon. The authors have created a fictional reality with all of the verisimilitude of a technothriller, but this doesn't credit them enough, since unlike, say, Tom Clancy, they have had to create their own weapons, tactics and even societies. Characterizations are strong and vivid, particularly the Human and Orion command team that spearheads the fight and a fighter pilot who's haunted by the ghosts of her dead. Ultimately, Weber and White have written an exposition, in the form of a novel, of Heinlein's axiom that "ethics are a survival mechanism," leaving the reader both exhilarated and enriched. (Feb.) FYI: Weber is the author most recently of The Excalibur Alternative (Forecasts, Nov. 19). Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In the 24th century, the Grand Alliance, made up of four sentient, allied races, finds itself on the losing end of the ongoing war against the Bugs, a hostile race of spacefaring, alien carnivores intent on conquest. In desperate straits, the warriors of the Alliance muster a last-ditch effort to destroy their enemy once and for all regardless of the cost. Coauthors Weber ("Honor Harrington" series) and White (Eagle Against the Stars) excel at large-scale military sf, combining intense scenes of interstellar battle with compelling portraits of men and women locked in interminable war. Along with its series predecessors Insurrection, Crusade, and In Death Ground, this title belongs in most collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743471442
  • Publisher: Baen
  • Publication date: 8/1/2003
  • Series: Starfire Series , #4
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 768
  • Sales rank: 306,398
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

David Weber
David Weber

DAVID WEBER is the author of the New York Times bestselling Honor Harrington series, the most recent of which was At All Costs. His many other novels include Mutineers’ Moon, The Armageddon Inheritance, Heirs of Empire, Path of the Fury, and Wind Rider’s Oath. He lives in South Carolina.

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Read an Excerpt

The Shiva Option


By David Weber Steve White

Baen Books

ISBN: 0-671-31848-9


Chapter One

Gathering Stars

by the standard dating of Old Terra, it was the year 2364, and the month was May. But that had nothing to do with the revolution of the Nova Terra/Eden double-planet system around Alpha Centauri A, and wan winter light slanted through the lofty windows, making the air of the spacious conference room-well heated and crowded with human and other warm-blooded bodies though it was-seem chilly.

Which, thought Marcus LeBlanc, was altogether too damned appropriate. How could it be anything else, when every being sitting in that room was only too well aware of the catastrophic events which had swirled about them since Ivan Antonov had launched Operation Pesthouse?

They'd had such hopes. Even LeBlanc, whose job it was to remind them all of how little they truly knew-even now-about the Arachnids, had been unable to believe that any race could sacrifice so many ships, entire fleets of superdreadnoughts, even planets inhabited by its own kind, just to set a massive trap. Yet that was precisely what the Bugs had done, and Operation Pesthouse had turned into the most overwhelming disaster in the history of the Terran Federation Navy. The Arachnids had lured Antonov's Second Fleet on and on with sacrifice gambits beyond the bounds of sanity ... then they'd closed in through undiscovered warp points in the systems through which he'd passed. They'd sprung a trap from which Antonov, with the help of a hastily organized relief force headed by Sky Marshal Hannah Avram herself, had only just managed to extricate less than half his force-not including himself, and not including Avram.

It was hard to say which had been the more paralyzing body blow to the TFN: the deaths of two living legends, or the loss of ships-more than a quarter of the fleet's total prewar ship count, and more than half its total prewar tonnage destroyed outright. And that didn't even count the crippling damage to many of the survivors. Nor did it count the two survey flotillas that had been probing beyond the warp points through which the Bugs had come ... and which must have been like puppies under the wheels of a ground car against the massive armadas into whose paths they had strayed.

The losses were so horrifying that the survey flotillas scarcely constituted a material addition to the sum of destruction. But, the more LeBlanc thought about it, the loss that really couldn't be afforded was Antonov. His reputation had been that of a ruthless, unstoppable, unfeeling force of nature-in short, humankind's answer to the Bugs. If he could be overwhelmed, what hope had everyone else?

Ellen MacGregor and Raymond Prescott-whose brilliant execution of Antonov's escape plan had enabled some of Second Fleet to survive-had halted the tumble of Terran morale when they smashed the Bug counteroffensive that had followed the fleeing survivors of Operation Pesthouse into the Alpha Centauri System. The "Black Hole of Centauri," as it had come to be called after MacGregor's savage prediction of what the Bug invaders were going to fall into, had been only a defensive victory, but it had been one the Grand Alliance had needed badly. And it evidently had left the Bugs incapable of any further offensives for the time being, as there had been no such offensive since. So a lull had settled over the war as the TFN began to rebuild itself.

Yet even beginning that rebuilding had been an agonizingly painful process, and the dispersive demands of frightened politicians, terrified for the safety of other star systems whose population levels approached that of Alpha Centauri, hadn't helped. So, yes, he understood why a room which should have been warm felt anything but.

He was seated among the staffers who lined the room's periphery, well back from the oval table in its center. As a rear admiral, he had about as much chance of getting a seat at that table as did the young lieutenant beside him.

That worthy seemed to share his mood. Kevin Sanders looked as foxlike as always, with his reddish sandy hair and sharp features. But the usual twinkle was absent from his blue eyes as he turned to LeBlanc, and his whisper was subdued, even though it held the customary informality that obtained between them.

"Quite a change since the last time I was here," he said.

After a moment's blankness, LeBlanc gave a nod of understanding. Sanders, then an ensign, had been in this very room three and a half years before, when the Grand Allied Joint Chiefs of Staff had first convened. That had been before he'd joined LeBlanc's intelligence shop of Bug specialists-before it had existed, even-and he'd been present as a subordinate of Captain Midori Kozlov. She hadn't been a captain then, when Ivan Antonov had been named the joint chiefs' chairman, and she'd served as his staff intelligence officer.

And now Kozlov, like Antonov himself and so many others-too many others, hundreds of thousands of others-existed only as cosmic detritus in the lonely, lonely depths of space where Second Fleet had gone to find its doom.

"Yes, quite a change," LeBlanc murmured in reply as he studied those positioned at the oval table.

Two members of the original joint chiefs that Sanders remembered were still there: Admiral Thaarzhaan of Terra's Ophiuchi allies, and Fleet Speaker Noraku of the Gorm, whose relationship with the Orions defied precise human definition. But Sky Marshal Ellen MacGregor now represented the Terran Federation, and there were others besides the joint chiefs, crowding the table's capacity. Admiral Raymond Prescott, who was to have commanded the Zephrain offensive, was seated beside Ninety-First Small Fang of the Khan Zhaarnak'telmasa, Lord Telmasa, who was to have been his carrier commander ... and who, more importantly, was his vilkshatha brother, for Prescott was the second human in history to have held that very special warrior's relationship with an Orion. Across the table from them was another Orion, Tenth Great Fang of the Khan Koraaza'khiniak, Lord Khiniak, just in from Shanak, where he commanded Third Fleet on the stalemated second front of the Kliean Chain. Fleet Admiral Oscar Pederson of the Federation's Fortress Command was also there, in his capacity as the system CO of Alpha Centauri. And, at the end of the table ...

There, LeBlanc's eyes lingered. Beside him, Sanders chuckled, once more his usual self.

"I wonder if there's ever been so much rank at one table?" the lieutenant mused. "You'd think it would reach critical mass!"

When he got no response from LeBlanc, he glanced sharply at his chief. Then he followed the rear admiral's gaze to the woman on whom it rested.

Admiral Vanessa Murakuma had the red hair, green eyes, and elvish slenderness of Irish genes molded by generations on a low-gravity planet. The initial impression, to eyes accustomed to the human norm, was one of ethereal fragility.

"Yeah, right," Sanders muttered to himself sotto voce.

Murakuma, thrust into command of the frantically improvised defenses of the Romulus Chain in the early days of the war, had fought the Bug juggernaut to a standstill in a nightmare thunder of death and shattered starships. She'd fallen back from star system to star system, always desperately outnumbered, always with her back to the wall ... always aware of the civilians helpless beyond the fragile shield of her dying ships. Sanders knew that he would never-ever-be able to truly understand the desperation and horror which must have filled her as she faced that implacable avalanche of Bug warships, saw it grinding remorselessly and unstoppably onward towards all she was sworn to protect and defend. Yet somehow she'd met that avalanche and, finally, stopped it dead. She'd nearly died herself in the process, yet she'd done it, and in the doing earned the Lion of Terra, an award that entitled her to take a salute from anyone in the TFN, regardless of rank. And the intelligence analyst who'd been beside her throughout the entire hideous ordeal had been then-captain Marcus LeBlanc, the only intelligence officer the TFN had thought loose-screwed enough to have a prayer of understanding the Bugs.

And now, as Sanders watched, she made a brief eye contact with Rear Admiral LeBlanc, and smiled ever so slightly.

Once again, Sanders looked at LeBlanc, who was also smiling.

He wondered if the rumors were true.

But it seemed that his boss had heard him, after all.

"Yes," LeBlanc agreed, still smiling. "There are a hell of a lot of stars, and the various other things nonhumans use for flag-rank insignia, up there. But there's more to come."

"Attention on deck!" the master-at-arms at the main doorway announced, as if on cue.

Everyone rose as Kthaara'zarthan, Lord Talphon, Chairman of the Grand Allied Joint Chiefs of Staff, entered with the prowling stride of the Zheeerlikou'valkhannaiee-a name which humans, for reasons too obvious for discussion, preferred to render as Orions, after the constellation which held the heart of their interstellar domain.

Most Orions, including Zhaarnak and Koraaza, came in various shades of tawny and russet. But there was a genetic predisposition, which kept popping up in the Khanate's noblest families, toward fur of midnight-black. Kthaara epitomized that trait, and even though he was beginning to show the frosting of age, he still suggested some arcane feline death-god. It was an impression few humans, even those used to Orions in general, could avoid on first seeing him. And it had grown more pronounced since Operation Pesthouse.

Everyone had heard the stories of Kthaara's reaction on learning of the fate of Ivan Antonov ... or Ivan'zarthan, as he was also entitled to be known, as the very first human to be admitted to vilkshatha brotherhood. It had been Kthaara who'd admitted him, at the height of the Theban War, when Antonov had allowed the Orion to serve under him because he'd understood the blood debt Kthaara had owed to the killers of his cousin, Khardanizh'zarthan. As he'd listened to the reports that Antonov's flagship had not been among the battered survivors that had limped back from Operation Pesthouse, the Orion hadn't emitted the howl a human, misled by the catlike countenance evolutionary coincidence had put atop a body not unlike that of a disproportionately long-legged man, might have expected. Nor had he made any sound of all. Nor any movement. Instead, like black lava freezing into adamantine hardness, he'd seemed to silently congeal into an ebon essence of death and vengeance.

Since then, his trademark cosmopolitan urbanity, the product of six decades of close association with humans, had returned somewhat. It was in evidence now as he sat down at the place at the head of the table he'd inherited from his vilkshatha brother and addressed the meeting.

"As you were, ladies and gentlemen," he said in the Tongue of Tongues. Orion vocal apparatus was incapable of pronouncing Standard English, and that of humans was almost as ill-adapted to the universal Orion language. No Orion had ever been able to speak Standard English, and only a tiny handful of gifted mimics-like Raymond Prescott-had ever been able to reproduce the sounds of the Tongue of Tongues. But the two races could learn to understand each other's speech, and many of the non-Orions present-including LeBlanc and Sanders-could follow the Tongue of Tongues. Those who couldn't (like Vanessa Murakuma, who was Orion-literate but whose tone deafness made it impossible for her to comprehend the spoken version of the language) had earplug mikes connected to a translators who could.

Several new Orion-English translation software packages were in development, spurred by the absolute necessity the Grand Alliance had created for human-Orion communication across the incompatible vocal interface which separated them, but they still left a lot to be desired. Memory requirements were very large, which limited their use to systems-like those on planets, large space stations, and capital ships-which could spare the space from other requirements. Worse, however, was the fact that they tended to be very literal-minded, and Orion was not a language which lent itself well to literal translation into English. Which was one reason organic translators were employed at plenary meetings like this one, where clarity of understanding was essential. The steady improvement in the software, especially by the Orions (who were the known galaxy's best cyberneticists) was bound to solve all of those problems-probably fairly soon, to judge by current results-but in the meantime, the software was reserved for occasions when misunderstandings would be less critical.

"I wish to welcome Lord Khiniak, Lord Telmasa, Ahhdmiraaaal Murraaaakuuuuma, and their staffs," Kthaara continued. "You have been recalled because I consider it necessary to bring all our principal field commanders up to date on our current status and future intentions. This will occupy an extensive series of conferences and briefings, as you already know from the material you have received. The purpose of this initial session is twofold. First of all, I wish to inform you that the last six months' strategic lull is soon going to come to an end."

That got the undivided attention of everyone who'd been expecting to sit through lengthy platitudes. Kthaara smiled a tooth-hidden carnivore's smile.

"The course of events leading up to the lull," he added, "is, of course, well known to us all."

That, LeBlanc thought with a fresh inner twinge of pain as he recalled his own earlier thoughts, was one way to put it.

It's still felt ... odd to hear an Orion say it, though. Or, rather, to hear an Orion say it as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Not so long ago, that position would have gone as a matter of course to a representative of the Terran Federation, the Alliance's technological pacesetter and industrial powerhouse, as well as its premier military power. But now the TFN lay prostrate, its proud tradition of victory tarnished and the sublime self-confidence born of that tradition badly shaken. True, the awesome shipbuilding capacity of the Federation's Corporate Worlds remained intact, and the reconstruction of the Navy had commenced. Yet for the time being, the Orions would have to take the lead in any initiatives the Alliance attempted. So the chairmanship had fallen to Kthaara-the logical choice anyway, in terms of seniority and prestige as well as his unique experience in dealing with humans.

And now his voice continued in the Tongue of Tongues ("Cats copulating to bagpipe music," as a human wit had once described the sound), bringing LeBlanc back to the matter at hand.

"It is therefore unnecessary to review those events at any great length.

Continues...


Excerpted from The Shiva Option by David Weber Steve White Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    My 2nd Military Sci-Fi book

    This is a good sequel in that it provided what I wanted in the subgenre of Military Sci-Fi: Lots & lots of starfleet battles with HUGE ships pounding on each other with anti-matter warheads. But to kick it up a notch, Weber/White add another exciting element to their starship carnage: Planet Killing. This is what the "The Shiva Option" is--outright violent extermination of the enemies homeworlds till there is nothing left but ash; blowing apart planets with anti-matter missiles & allowing the generated fireballs to produce tsunamis, firestorms & earthquakes to do their genecidal work. It's a fun read, especially if you're a fan of the 1st novel in the series about the Human/Orion alliance's battle with the Bugs. It is a long book, but it does keep your attention in that you want to know what is going to happen in the end. I was pleased that this novel brings the Bug War to a satisfying conclusion & not ending on a cliffhanger. Yes, they do seed the story with possibilities of the Bugs returning in the future but it will take a long time for them to get to this point. Good. We don't need another series that goes on for 10 or 12, 700-1,000+ page novels--we have Honor Harrington for that. Will I read Weber's Honor series now that I've tried his Starfire series? Maybe. But I think I like his Starfire series better because of the focus on starfleet battles. I'm a huge fan of the WWI naval history of Jutland--trying to imagine what a battle like that is like--& I'm a huge fan of Sci-Fi, so the Starfire series provides me with both with huge satisfaction. I hope Weber/White work on another in the series soon--taking their starfleet battles to a new area in space & story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2004

    that book was great

    it was very good even though it was so long i was interested in the book the whole way through.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2004

    One of the best books I have ever read!!!!!

    I have read all of the Terran-Orion books that Weber and White have written. I loved them all, but 'The Shive Option' was by far the best, with 'In Death Ground' being the next. When I saw that 'The Shive Option' was finally released, it took me about 5 minutes to get through the first few chapters because i had been wanting this book for so long. Anyone who is a Military Sci-Fi fan must get this book, as well as the other titles set in this universe. All of them are well written and can trap your mind in ways that don't even seem concievable at the time. It also felt good to finally see how the war that was started in 'In Death Ground' ended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2004

    AWESOME!!!!

    I had never before read any of David Weber's novels before, but when I bought this book on a whim, i was immediately addicted! Not only was this a great stand-alone story, but it made me want to read the other books in this series...at first, the acronyms may be cumbersome, but the book goes in depth explaining them, so even a first-time reader could understand. An awesome read!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2002

    Ahhh... Finally the rest of the story!!!

    I really enjoy fast paced,well written,military action sci-fi. When 'In Deaths Ground' was published, I really enjoyed the story line and characters. However, the end of the book left me, and many others I am sure, hungry for more. Finally, 'The Shiva Option' has arrived and the 2 year wait was worth it!! Mr White and Mr. Weber delivered the goods. The story picked right up where it left off and blazed away. The action, characters and story line were top notch. A must read for any Military Sci-Fi reader.

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