Ragnarok by Patrick A. Vanner [Book Review]

I was underwhelmed by the cover but interested by the blurb. And I am glad I read this shiny new debut novel by Patrick A. Vanner. I am always on the lookout after new military science fiction and this looks like a promising new series.

It is a about Alexandra McLaughlin a Navy commander who have had to jump out, leaving friends and comrades behind to warn Earth of a Xan-Sskarn surprise attack. She is riddled with survivor’s guilt but determined to pay the aliens back. But there is a human traitor on the loose and the Xan-Sskarn victories starts to threaten the very survival of the human race. Eventually she might be the only one standing between them and eternal slavery or extinction.

There is some world building but not very extensive instead it is the characters that stand out. Patrick spends a lot of time honing out Alexandra and she is really good. There are some other memorable characters like Barbie the fighter pilot and her new team mates. The Marine Recon squad is also pretty awesome and interesting character wise. I hope we will get to know their background a little more in the next book as they come across a bit shallow in this book.

With a little more effort into the world building this would have been an awesome debut instead of just a very good one. On the other hand this is a book about a war and not about the lives of civilians so I guess Patrick might have made a good choice with dwelling further into leadership problems, staff meetings and the occasional military party.

Ragnarok is a fitting name on this book because in a way it is much more that than I expected and the ending did surprise me a bit even if it felt very satisfying, I want to read the second book in this series soon but I have no idea when it will be out.


Title: Ragnarok
Series: Xan-Sskarn War book 1
Author: Patrick A. Vanner
Genre: Military Science Fiction | Space Opera
Paperback:  352 pages
Publisher: Baen 2010
Copy: Brought from Amazon

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Captain Alexandra “Alex” McLaughlin is not a woman to be underestimated. Under her petite exterior is a spine of solid steel and a disposition to laugh in the face of impending death. A former member of the Terran Navy’s elite force, the Dead Jokers, electronic-warfare pilots with a mortality rate to match that of old Japan’s Kamikazes, Alex is a born survivor. But sometimes survival can be a curse.

Humanity is locked in a war of survival with the Xan-Sskarn, an alien race that refuses to acknowledge the rights of “weaker” creatures to live. It is a war that will not end with a peace treaty, but only the complete subjugation of one species to the other. And right now, the alien side is winning.

However, the enemy on the outside is not the only one to be faced. As the battles take on an eerily familiar pattern of no-win scenarios, Alex realized the horrifying truth; humanity has a traitor, and it’s somebody close. As each battle brings more death, Alex’s ghosts grow and so does her desire for vengeance. There is only one way for this to end, and Alex is just the human to take it there—to Ragnarok.

  • Teedmun

    I too enjoy hard sci fi and Ragnarok fits the bill…definitely enjoyed the book. I also am anxious to know when the next book in the Trilogy will be out?

  • I hope allready next year but i have absolutely no foundation to say that than it is the usual thing we can hope for. One book per year.

  • Kanin

    Question: Ragnarok is from the Norse mythology, if I am not wrong. It’s spelled a little bit diferent, true. Is there any connection? Or some kind of comparission?

  • It is and so are a lot of the ship names and such in the story too. Seems like the world created here is very inspired by the Norse mythos. Ragnarök is the Norse variant of Armageddon/Apocalypse

  • Kanin

    Thanks. Interesting, maybe I’ll give it a chance.

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  • John Thorp

    SPOILER ALERT!I became very angry after the first half dozen pages.  A dream? Really? The best part of the book was that fragment at the very beginning.  Vanner then proceeds to recreate a new ( same ) scenario and the consequence replays.  Why?  Why not just take us to the beginning and let us understand what’s happened in the first instance?  This is intended to be a trilogy so the writer has more than enough narrative space to do so.Every character in the narrative resides at about the maturity level of a thirteen year old.   Reactions are explosive, unplanned, highly emotional and, of course, childish.  Characters are down one moment, up the next and for no apparent reason.  Hatred is blind and seemingly spontaneous–we only learn after the fact Rachere had a son.I think there are typically far worse consequences for an admission of intended homicide than a psych evaluation.  I don’t think a battle hardened captain, even in extremis would launch herself upon a superior officer regardless of provocation.  I think the utter destruction of an entire war fleet requires far more explanation than a couple of paragraphs.  And I don’t believe fear of death is a valid excuse for betrayal given that the person enlisted to crew in a warzone–ever hear of this thing called resigning one’s commission?Good writers prepare the reader, Vanner doesn’t.  He is invested in reproducing the same pointless conversations between characters that other writers have done and done better.  He is lazy and doesn’t think things through and doesn’t allow the reader think things through either.As a first effort this book should not have been published. It had promise and a decent premise, but it has no heart, no depth and no real merit. As entertainment it is but a shade to Weber’s Harrington and Ringo’s Posleen series. We are all waiting for the next great space opera series and this ain’t it.http://gabriel-darke-epublishing.com/

  • gregory

    when is the sequel coming out?