The Fortress in Orion is the first book in Mike Resnick’s series The Dead Enders. The story follows Nathan Pretorius, a war weary soldier for an intergalactic government, as he attempts to pull off an impossible mission. Nathan is well-known throughout the galaxy as the Democracy’s most successful and trusted military asset. For that reason, he is given the task of putting together a team that can covertly replace the Democracy’s greatest enemy, General Michkag, with a perfect clone. To do so Nathan and his team of unique mercenaries will have to infiltrate the Coalition’s headquarters in the Orion constellation. While the characters have potential to be interesting, there’s a lot of poorly constructed dialogue and the overall story demands too much suspension of disbelief (even for science fiction) to be enjoyable.
The idea of a combat tested soldier leading a group of mismatched, superpowered misfits into an impossible scenario seems interesting enough, however, their characterizations fall flat and drag the plot into a black hole. Nathan’s team consists of Ortega, a cyborg, Snake, a contortionist, Circe, an empath, Pandora, a tech genius; an alien who can manipulate how he is seen named Proto, and the clone of Michkag and his personal assistant. Together, they fly through space stealing ships, gathering information on the real Michkag, and converse about what to do when they get to Orion. The diversity of the mercenaries’ powers and experience alone should provide some interesting dramatic sequences, yet all we really get is exposition. Nathan continually tells his band of soldiers that they have to improvise as they move through the galaxy, and it seems like that’s what Resnick is doing too. A strong example of this occurs when Nathan takes several members of his team to a bank to ferret out information on Michkag’s movements throughout the galaxy. Nathan tries to use Proto’s ability to change shape to coerce the bank manager into revealing what she knows. The situation, however, turns ugly way too quickly as they enter the bank manager’s office to discover she doesn’t trust their cover story. Nathan quickly and without regard kills the bank manager only later to realize that he blew their cover, possibly for the rest of the mission. Acting rashly in that situation comes across more as poor planning on Resnick’s part than it does his character.
The audiobook is narrated by a raspy voiced Christian Rummel. The narrator of any audiobook can make or break the story with his or her delivery. In the case of Fortress in Orion, Rummel only emphasizes the poor characterizations. Nathan Pretorius comes across as a galactic Dirty Harry, which is okay, but when Christian tries to do the high pitched female voice characterizations for Circe, Snake, and Pandora his voice comes across comical. This creates a situation where the listener can never really visualize those characters. This will assuredly make one wish they had read the book, allowing imagination to create the voices instead of the narrator.
Whether it’s in a hard copy format or audio, the first installment of Mike Resnick’s Dead Enders story is simply put a dead end. The poor characterizations and the over (or under, depending on the perspective) use of imagination brings the story down to a point where the reader may not be interested in the outcome and subsequent novels by the end.
After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Audible.com. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.