The Martian General’s Daughter by Theodore Judson
Review Summary: I really wanted to enjoy and like this next effort of the author’s, based on what I had seen in his initial foray, but unfortunately had quite the opposite reaction.
Unfortunately I was sorely disappointed in Judson’s The Martian General’s Daughter. Despite this theoretically being a novel about the fall of an empire, whereas Fitzpatrick’s War was supposedly about the rise of an empire, this short novel actually seems like nothing more than leftover material from his first book, despite there not being any allusion to this being the same empire as was founded in the first book.
I was somewhat glad to see a female persona in this novel, something that was lacking in Fitzpatrick’s War, but there wasn’t anything particularly contributed by the narrator that couldn’t have been said or done by a male heir – though I suppose a general’s son would have had more pressure to join the army, rather than being an unpaid advisor in that army. This unpaid advisor status was a further detriment to the story though, in that the narrator wasn’t actually present at a number of the personal meetings described in the book, and rather than being made into an interesting portion of the story, was simply glossed over. The other characters – bland and uninteresting – seemed to have been recycled from Judson’s earlier work, with even the general being such a boring, uninteresting character that it was difficult for me to see why the narrator, who was a potentially interesting person, felt any affection for him whatsoever.
The plot honestly felt like some sort of extenuation or cast-offs from Fitzpatrick’s War – mad emperor, failing technology, poorly choreographed wars and logistics, and the narrator and her family merely trying to make it through. Nothing new was advanced, nothing interesting really ventured, other than a poorly-explained decision about how the empire deserved a madman as emperor, to ruin it completely, with no thought to the terror it would cause the numberless innocents caught in the resulting bloody implosion.
Thematically I think the author’s opinions as expressed in his body of work to date – that empire is inevitable if unchecked, that empire creates monstrosities, and that empire is the only choice in the event of a technological catastrophe – were interesting in Fitzpatrick’s War, but belabored and fatuous in The Martian General’s Daughter.
Overall, the novel feels more like a scam than an honest literary attempt, in that the author seems to be recycling characters, plot and materials from his first novel, and in the fact that Mars and the narrator’s gender have so little to do with the rest of the novel – nothing momentous even occurs during their brief stay on Mars – as to make it seem like those portions of it were added or reworked just to give this boring peice of work an interesting, eye-catching title. I really wanted to enjoy and like this next effort of the author’s, based on what I had seen in his initial foray, but unfortunately had quite the opposite reaction.