Well, this is different… and yet familiar. The broad action and wider themes of Defense of the Fiddler are fairly familiar Military SF. However, this is done in a script format.

Beyond the oddness of that choice in general, there’s odd things inside of this book in how it’s handled. The prologue and and one transition section are in comic format, so I assume that Hogarth was originally thinking of doing a graphic novel, but realized it’d take too much time out of her other writing projects. So we have a script that looks a bit like a Shakespearian play: scene setting and descriptions are fairly minimal. There’s some notable ones at the beginning, which quickly drops to nonexistent, and then as the book goes on, the descriptions slowly fill out a bit again, and for the climax there’s lots of descriptions of camera angles and pans, and… yeah, this is more cinematic than comics can easily do. So you get an initial few pages of visual reference, and then you’re left on your own to fill in the conversations with appropriate visuals. Once you’ve gotten through the beginning and have established the scene for yourself, then more details slowly start filtering in keep you on track.

It’s an interesting technique, but there are some important details not expressed until well into the book. The action is largely in claustrophobic tunnels, with the enemy ‘crabs’ breaking through the walls as well as using the existing tunnels. What isn’t said is that this is all on a planet with a toxic atmosphere, so everyone’s down below for their own safety. It’s obvious that something like this must be true, but the exact reason isn’t mentioned until late, making it hard to figure out what these tunnels are part of.

The story itself is multilayered, and very effective. It takes its time to get going, but the cast of characters is surprisingly large, partly because they’re introduced to you at a very deliberate pace, and you get to know everyone currently involved before expanding the scope slightly to introduce a couple more. It’s a difficult trick, one that all too many books flub at one point or another, and it’s masterfully handled here. The script format take a bit of getting used to, but you are well rewarded for going with it.