Review: “Barbarians at the Gates” by Christopher G. Nuttall

barbariansatthegates_medBarbarians at the Gates by Christopher G. Nuttall. Paladin Timeless Books. 330 pages.

Note: some slight spoilers here.


I like military science fiction, and as far as that goes, this is not a bad book. I’ve read some of Christopher Nuttall’s other books, and you can find my review of them here. Mostly (if not completely), his books deal with space battles between ships and armadas of ships in the great depths of space. And he’s pretty good at telling that story. Here’s the description from Amazon:

The Federation has endured for hundreds of years, but now it is dying, killed by the corruption and decadence of the Senate and the rising power of military warlords. The shipping lanes are coming apart, the colonists are revolting and outside forces are pressing against undefended borders. Now, as one warlord makes a bid for supreme power, the entire edifice is on the verge of falling apart. Two officers, bearers of a proud military tradition, may be all that stands between the Federation and total destruction. For Admiral Marius Drake, there is no greater cause than the survival of humanity’s prized unity. For the young and ambitious Roman Garibaldi, the growing civil war offers a chance of promotion far beyond the usual boundaries. Together, they will save the Federation or die trying. But with the Senate suspicious of any competent commanding officers, their success may condemn them to an inglorious death.

The first problem I had with this book, and probably the series, was that from the title I could tell the intention was a retelling of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. A retelling is always hard, because you’re caught between being faithful to the original–which this one was, to a great degree–and coming off as predictable, or taking leaps of artistic imagination, in which readers will complain that the story is nothing like the original. In this case, faithfulness and predictability was an issue for me.

The second issue, which may be tied to the first, is that I never felt like the two main characters were in any danger at all. One is a lieutenant who quickly becomes captain of a ship, the other is an admiral. They were in danger, theoretically speaking, but you never really feel afraid for them. They always seem to have things in control, perhaps more superior in intellect and military skill than everyone around them.  And that’s a big issue for me. You have to put them in danger so that you have a story. I just didn’t see it.

I really liked the other series better. Sorry, but I end up giving Barbarians three stars.