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Grubane (SF) - Karl Drinkwater ****

Following on from Helene, this is the second novella that Karl Drinkwater has used to fill in some of the backstory of his Lost Solace novels. Here we meet the strategic genius ship captain Major William Grubane in a complex game of an engagement where the relatively dove-like Grubane has to fulfil  a mission that involves suppressing a rebellious planet while appeasing the more hawk-like side of his chain of command.

As is common to all the books in this series, an important factor is the interaction between a human and an artificial intelligence, in this case one of the many clone-like parts of the ship's AI known as Aurikaa12, which Grubane has encouraged towards a more human-like state of general intelligence than the other 'splinters'. The story is narrated from Aurikaa12's viewpoint. 

Along the way, chapters are interlaced with sections from Grubane's treatise The Philosophy and Application of Ancient Games in which he considers strategy in chess in a way that plays out in his real world interaction with the representatives of the planet and of his warlike civilisation.

As well as linking in to the main line of the Lost Solace stories, this is both another interesting venture into the mind of an AI (the central feature in Helene) and an interesting piece of brinkmanship from Grubane. Originally I was a bit doubtful about the role of individually published novellas that ebooks have made possible, but as someone who doesn't like overlong books they have increasingly become one of my favourite reading formats - and Grubane does not disappoint.

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Review by Brian Clegg

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