Hardfought by Bear, Greg, 1993

Hardfought by Bear, Greg - Book cover from Amazon.co.uk

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This one is an award winning piece, but I really had trouble getting through it. It is very different and it is not easily accessible. In the story humans are at war with an ancient race of beings called the Senexi. The Senexi differ from us in important ways, including the rapidity of their cultural and technological development. They cannot keep up with our innovation, and although they can be as brutal as humans are, they fear that they will ultimately lose the war because of this difference. As a result the Senexi have begun cloning human beings and inserting them onto battle grounds at critical points to wreck havoc on our lines of attack. Doing this is not difficult as humanity has come to clone its most successful and competent warriors, and sends armies of them into battle together. Our clones look exactly alike, so its easy for the Senexi to insert their agents. In the story a young clone named Prufrax has been trained since birth to combat the Senexi using a powerful glove-weapon. She is only "five ship-years old," whatever that means, when she is sent into her first battle, a raid on a Senexi research ship that is conducting genetic experiments on a number of Prufrax clones as it orbits a nebula. The Senexi also have captured a human device called a mandate, which is an A.I. that rigorously runs human ship life and is an electronic repository of human culture and values. The Senexi have no such devices, as their brains are adequate to that task: They are like biological computers, but they compute slowly. In fact, they are a hive mind that is arranged in pods of five individuals which contribute mental capacity and defense to each of the individual minds. Aryz, a former member of a pod of Senexi has been excommunicated from his race as it is thought he will be irreparably harmed by working with and education the human clones. It is a task he happily completes for his race.

As the Senexi ship continues on its endless orbit the humans attack and almost destroy the entire Senexi ship. Most of the ship self destructs, but a small portion of it that contains Aryz, Prufrax and her clone, and the mandate slip into some sort of "lesser geometry," and emerges billions of years in the future after the nebula has collapsed into stars which in turn have aged to the halfway stage of their life cycles.

I found some similarities between this book and Ender's Game, which was published three years after Hardfought. Prufrax was born to her job of combatant, and she was subjected to rigorous training as well as pre-birth memory placement, artificial aging and resizing, multiple surgical procedures and forcible mental brainwashing to prepare for that job. Prufrax has virtually no concept of the ideas of "gratification" or "beauty" because she has been so completely indoctrinated into ship-life and the life of a soldier, and engages in mating only to donate her genetic material to the ship, which will be used only if she proves her worth by surviving battles. But the tone of this book was much darker, and Prufrax was never beset by the feelings that Ender Wiggin was dealing with, which was primarily choosing which aspect of his personality (those aspects that reflected the nurturing influence of Valentine or sadistic influence of Peter) would become dominant. She simply was what she was; largely because of the military's intervention in her pre- and early life, but nonetheless, she never dealt with Ender's issues.

My advice is to skip this one, and go on to some of Bear's more important and less confusing later works. Two out of five stars.

Copyright 2008, Gregory Tidwell

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 2 star(s)


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