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The Shiva Option    by David Weber & Steve White order for
Shiva Option
by David Weber
Order:  USA  Can
Baen, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

The Shiva Option is the fourth and concluding novel in this far-future series following In Death Ground, and if you liked the others, this one provides an even bigger bang for your buck. In this particular future, humanity has discovered, fought with, and made peace with several starfaring races but they all now find their systems under attack by a totally alien enemy. The Arachnids, or Bugs, are telepathic between themselves, and do not seem even to comprehend the possibility of other communication. They attack in overwhelming numbers and sacrifice themselves wholesale to achieve even a small tactical advantage. Most frightening, they regard all other life forms as food.

As this novel begins, the Grand Alliance of Humans,Orions, Ophiuchi and Gorm have been driven back on their home systems. Billions of their citizens have been slaughtered, or even worse, held as farm animals by the Bugs. A major offensive operation relying on the slight technical advantage held by the Alliance meets disastrous defeat, with the deaths of its most respected leaders. However, some rays of hope appear. The Bug forces are not inexhaustible and gradually, and with enormous sacrifice, information on their home systems is developed.

Also, though the Alliance is not yet aware of it, a lost Survey expedition has discovered and been rescued by old and almost forgotten foes of the Bugs, uncovering another front of attack.The other races whom humanity had so far encountered,and fought, had been alien in both body and mind, but had shared with humanity the ability to make moral choices which led eventually to peace. It is recognised that this is not the case with the Bugs, and when one of their home systems is found, the Alliance has no difficulty in deciding on the Shiva option - genocide.

The war continues with victories and defeats on both sides, but gradually the strategic advantage swings to the Alliance. This is a large volume, with a great many characters, but the authors have done a good job of concentrating attention and developing the characteristics of a few at a time, so that the reader is not overwhelmed. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the space strategies and battles, which are described with undoubted expertise, but begin to pall after the fourth or fifth battle. Well worth reading, but those who are not military SF buffs may need to make a fast pass over some of the military and technical data.

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