In Off Armageddon Reef we have an advance human society pushed to the brink of extinction and forced to live without the benefits of modern technology in a last ditch effort to survive. Not only do they draw the line at pre-industrial revolution levels of technology but this idea of technological stagnation is culturally programmed to ever person on the planet. When a holdover from the past gets dropped into the equation the entire world is turned upside down. It is an amazing premise and really gives Weber a lot to work with. You have all the benefits of a solid sci-fi story mixed with a kind of historical fiction that just works.
While the writing of the book is as top notch as always the pacing is where some problems start to creep in. The pacing of this book is somewhat different then Weber’s other works. While there is a good deal of very exciting action, including an amazingly epic finale, the book at times grinds to a very long winded halt. The political landscape that Weber has built is extremely complex and he spends a lot of time on the politics. There are large sections of the book that it feels more like a political thriller then sci-fi novel. Not that it makes the book bad as it does add an interesting level to the conflict, but if you prefer action packed science fiction then this is not the book for you.
While I recognize the slower than normal pace of Off Armageddon Reef might off-put some people it didn’t bother me too much, but I also enjoy political thrillers. The other complaint however did get to me. Weber had some interesting ideas about language drift during the hundreds of years people were living prior to Nimue’s return. The problem is this doesn’t work well for the reader. Weber has Nimue and the reader compensate for the language throughout the book except for peoples name. So you get fully understandable and readable dialog told by people with names like Bryahan (Brian) and Nahrmahn (Norman). It is fairly distracting and I was never able to cope with it.
That being said, I loved this book. The age of sail navel battles, the political intrigue, the meshing of sci-fi and classical technology, it all worked for me. This is a series I cannot get enough of and I hope Weber keeps it going for some time.