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From Barnes & NobleThe 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)