Retro Review: Out of the Dark by David Weber

David Weber


Tor, 2010.

I couldn’t do it. I tried, Lord knows I tried. But I just could not make it through this abortion of a novel.

It made me angry. Very angry.

I wouldn’t have even bothered writing about the horrific experience, except it felt like I was being too nice on my blog, what with all these reviews of excellent examples of fantasy and sci-fi.

So here are my thoughts on what was easily the worst novel I’ve read in at least 20 years.

Weber is an acclaimed military sci-fi novelist, which apparently means he knows how to describe weapons systems in blueprint-level detail. But he is certainly no Heinlein or Haldeman.

Out of the Dark revolves around an alien invasion of earth, by the brutal, canine Shongairi. The invasion is sanctioned by the pacifist Galactic Hegemony, who observed Earth during the Battle of Agincourt and decided that humans were too brutal for the Hegemony.

When the Shongairi arrive, however, they discover that humans are much more advanced than they expected, still they don’t anticipate any trouble. They hack into the defense systems of every country in the world and unleash a brutal attack that destroys most of humanity.

But leaves the communications network intact. As well as the air force.

So of course the humans quickly organize a resistance, like North Carolina gun store owner and doomsday prepper Dave Dvorak. The humans are able to harry the alien invaders thanks to their meticulously described weapons and ammunition, and the aliens continue to launch attacks, never learning from their mistakes or attempting to cripple the human infrastructure.

At that point I gave up. I couldn’t take the pages and pages of weapon lists and protocol regulations that added word count in lieu of plot. So I decided to see what I was missing because there was no fucking way I was going to wade through the rest of this garbage.

And then I got REALLY angry.

Anyone who may have any interest in reading this is advised to stop now, because there will be spoilers. But frankly I don’t care.  Because fuck this book.

Apparently Earth successfully drove off these aliens thanks to the intervention of Dracula.

I’ll pause for a moment to let you absorb that.

Yes. The alien invasion by werewolves carnivorous canines is thwarted by Dracula. Maybe a few points for cleverness, but Jesus Christ, haven’t we had enough of these Goddamn werewolf vs. vampire stories?

I might have even appreciated the cleverness if not for the obvious plot holes and gratuitous padding that led up to that “shocking” reveal. Nah, probably not.

A little research informed me that Weber originally wrote Out of the Dark as a short story, included in George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’ Warriors anthology. This makes me lose respect for Martin.

Of course it could be better as a short story. Certainly trimming out the improvised munitions manuals and explanations of Wi-Fi encryption would tighten it up quite a bit.

But really, I don’t care enough to find out.

—Michael Senft

Buy Out of the Dark (but don’t say I didn’t warn you)

About Michael Senft

I am a freelance writer and critic from Phoenix Arizona. I spent 10 years covering music, the arts and pop culture for the “Arizona Republic” before life circumstances took me away from newspaper. But I never lost my joy at writing. Or reading.
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1 Response to Retro Review: Out of the Dark by David Weber

  1. My clone is a big David Weber fan (he re-reads Off Armageddon Reef frequently), but even he couldn’t say anything good about Out of the Dark. One of the main characters is, apparently, a blatant stand-in for the author himself (and not written in an interesting or even fun way), and there are some seriously stupid things happening in the last part of the novel, such as the vampires clinging to the outside of the aliens’ ships as they leave Earth (could be wrong on the details — could be our shuttles instead), because apparently not needing to breathe (because they’re vampires) also means being immune to the effects of long-term exposure to vacuum.


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