“If you will not die for us, you cannot ask us to die for you.” – Jacqueline Carey

Author Gary Caplan’s novel ‘The Phoenix Rising’ is set in a futuristic time period hundreds of years from now. Planet Earth and the various nations as we know today are history and in their place are space faring civilizations, doing what all great civilizations do best – explorations and combating for supremacy. Alliance of Worlds is a huge group in space, made-up of more than 250 civilizations engaged in space explorations for resources and defending their vast assets against enemy infiltrations and misadventures. And there’s no dearth of it as groups like the Varlons and the Accadians harbors dreams of space dominance. Recently promoted Commodore Robert Allen Sheppard has his task cut out while manning the Phoenix ship and going into battle against such enemy forces.

It is as much a story about the main character’s journey as it is about a civilization’s journey to expand and also protect itself from enemy incursions. Often, the various thought processes and actions undertaken by the space civilizations and their leaders will remind you of the actions and decisions taken by various nations and their leaders here on Earth. The description of the space combat scenes, especially the strategies and tactics used by the opposing and defending forces will lights up the battle scenes in your mind. But it’s not just mindless action that fills these pages, as the book also delves into the actions taken by the political and military leadership and fills the narrative with political intrigue.

Robert Allen Sheppard has many attractive qualities in him that makes him a great leader. He is smart and is a brilliant tactician, but he is also a compassionate individual who is well aware of his own mortality. His interactions with his crew members also reveal a lot about the character.

The quality of a book can generally be judged by the words in it, in addition to its story. It's not just what you say, but how you say it that matters. Taking off from this ‘The Phoenix Rising’ can be judged in two distinct ways. Firstly, it handles the theme of space battles and culture quite well. The detailing in this fully imagined world and the description of it manages to paint a lively picture in the minds of the reader. But alternatively it’s the same point that gives the novel a feel of an overwritten work. Fantasy/Military fiction genre books are generally more descriptive than others but you still feel this story could have been narrated more succinctly.

The setting and the characters have enough in them to warrant a sequel adventure story or even a prequel explaining how they all got here in the first place. If the writing can shrug off the extra weight it displays here then it can become a good adventure series.

Despite the numerous intricate and technical descriptions ‘The Phoenix Rising’ by and large is an entertaining read. That is if you are willing to overlook a few glitches here and there and are not expecting a life altering novel here. The plot, the setting, the characterization, and the writing all have a simple objective and that is to provide you with mindless entertainment and in that respect the book succeeds. 

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