The Oncoming Storm by Christopher G. Nuttall

My enjoyment of The Oncoming Storm was hampered by two issues: an incredibly miscast Audio book narrator and a plot that somehow managed to not bring anything new to the genre of military sci fi. As such, the story is serviceable and packs enough adventure to keep readers/listeners invested. But at the same time, this is a somewhat unsatisfying snack, leaving one hungry for more substantial fare at the end.

Story: Cat Falcone enlists in the military fleet in order to make her own life independent of her noble and extremely powerful father. But that same father will pull strings, get her a premature ascendancy to captain, and a mission to investigate problems at the Cadiz world outpost. With a former lover leading her marines, a highly experienced but overlooked non-noble executive officer under her, and a fanatical religious government set to declare war, she will get far more than she bargained for at Cadiz.

The premise is fairly simple and rather topical – aristocratic government versus religious fanatics in space. Nuttal smartly steers clear of making the zealots related to any particular current religion – they are an amalgamation of several monotheistic fundamentalists including tight control over citizens, lack of women’s rights, and the usual ‘God is on our side’ rhetoric. Subthemes on the power of the aristrocracy over those born outside of nobility (think ancient Rome and citizenship) as well as military ineptitude and corporate greed are also covered. Perhaps because all the topics are timely that this book feels almost dated – contemporary religious fundamentalist struggles but with a heroine reminiscent of Honor Harrington or Kris Longknife (especially). I can’t help but feel Jack Campbell did it all a bit better – and tighter.

That aside, the story flows smoothly enough though hampered a bit by characters making the same obvious conclusions over and over again. In that regard, I wish the editor had been a bit tighter and sharpened the focus more. Some observations were made so many times, I would have started counting them for a future drinking game if reading on Kindle (e.g., “take a drink every time the XO notes that Kat makes a non-self serving command that impresses him she’s not like the other captains). The book feels overly long in that regard.

The Audible narration was truly bad and I had a hard time getting into the book because of the bland, staccato, over enunciated, narration. The narrator seems much better suited to a YA book like Twilight than military science fiction, to be honest. At one point, it was difficult to continue because I’d cringe every time I had to start Audible and listen to the dull reading.

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