So now that your Terran Federation Navy has defeated a race of religious fanatics, what do have them do? I mean, they can’t just sit around peacefully, because a) that makes for a boring plot, and b) it would mean that maybe some of the pacifists in the book aren’t complete blithering morons, as Weber and White know they must be. How can they really demonstrate the importance of a hyper-military outlook? Well, in David Weber and Steve White’s In Death Ground and The Shiva Option they give us the ultimate caricature of an enemy: They attack on sight, they never communicate in any way, and they’re willing to kill themselves in horrifying numbers if it also means killing humans. Oh, plus they look like giant spiders. Oh, and they eat people.
So that’s pretty evil! Fortunately, once we get past the godawful political posturing (where the “too civilized” — and seriously, that’s their phrase — Heartworlders constantly “whine” (their word again) about the military) and move into space battles, things get a lot better. If you’re looking for large scale space battles, this doesn’t disappoint. And unlike the first book, these two have a cast of characters with more continuity and some traces of individual personality; they’re two-dimensional, but that’s a solid dimension up from before.
There’s no way these books can really be called “good,” but I still liked them in a guilty way.