MAN OF WAR by Heidi Ruby Miller, Meteor House, h/c, $27.00/p/b, $16.00, Web Address
Reviewed by Dave Brzeski
The lovely cover, by Mark Wheatley, proclaims this to be “A Two Hawks Adventure”, which should be enough for many to realise this is another in Meteor House’s series of new adventures set in the worlds of SF Grand Master Philip José Farmer. The specific Farmer concept being expanded upon in this case is, of course, Two Hawks From Earth (1979), which is a revised, expanded version of The Gates of Time (1966). By this stage, I no longer had any reservations about any author chosen by Meteor House being up to the task of following in Farmer’s footsteps. This confidence was bolstered by the fact that I’d previously read the prologue as a separate short story in Worlds of Philip José Farmer Volume Three, which I have previously reviewed.
That story introduced Roger Two Hawks, and us to Dakota Cummings, a heroine who could easily have carried the book on her own. At this point I should probably mention that, while this novella certainly holds up as a stand alone work, the reader would be better served by seeking out a copy of Two Hawks From Earth to read first.
Science fiction is full of tales of displaced heroes, finding themselves involved in the conflicts of their adoptive worlds. In earlier times, the sides would be clearly delineated, and the protagonist could easily tell who were the righteous. By the time Edgar Rice Burroughs (an obvious influence on the original Two Hawks novel) made his stamp on this particular scenario of the displaced hero, things were already becoming more complicated with good and evil characters surfacing on both sides of the conflict. In Two Hawks From Earth, Farmer pushed this idea even further, leading both the hero and the villain to be somewhat ambivalent about their chosen alliances.
Heidi Ruby Miller really runs with this concept, as Two Hawks finds himself equally used and abused by pretty much everyone he comes into contact with. Being a novella, it’s a fairly quick read, action-packed and gripping. The editing is up to Meteor House’s usual exemplary standards—I didn’t note a single error, or typo, which is rare in this day and age. I generally like to find something to criticise, no matter how small, just to avoid being taken for one of the current rash of meaningless five star reviewers that currently infest the internet, but I honestly couldn’t find anything to complain about. I genuinely hope Miller and Meteor House plan on continuing the story with further books.