Igniting The Reaches

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1,000 years after interstellar society has collapsed, a new empire which is suspiciously like Canada rules most of the planets and their most valuable resources — slaves and automated silicon chip factories. Two gentlemen from Venus set of to make their fortunes as what can only be described as slavers and pirates. They’re clearly not nice people, but they are the heros of this book.

The book is very readable, and like other books by Drake it is clear that the heros aren’t always nice, and are haunted by their crimes. Yet they continue, and in the end might have accidentally done something nice.

Overall, a good if different book.

[isbn: 0441001793]

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Their Finest Hour

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This book is a disappointment. I was excited about another Bolo book, but this one is all republished stories I’d previously read:

Overall I’m pretty sad that it wasn’t made more clear that this book was entirely reprints.

[isbn: 9781439133750]

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Dogs of War

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Another combat anthology, this time edited by David Drake.

  • Or Battle’s Sound (Harry Harrison): already read in Battlefields Beyond Tomorrow and Body Armor: 2000.
  • Liberty Port (David Drake): already read in The Complete Hammer’s Slammer’s Volume 1.
  • Straw (Gene Wolfe): steam punk mercenaries in a future which is more like the past. A good read.
  • Tomb Tapper (James Blish): this one has a nice twist at the end, although I found the underlying premise of the story hard to believe.
  • A Relic of War (Keith Laumer): already read in The Compleat Bolo.
  • Basic Training (Mark L Van Name): this one is a bit sad. Well, all of the stories in this book are sad, but I find this one a bit harder than others because the main character is about the age of my kids.
  • Witch War (Richard Matheson): an interesting little tale which doesn’t end up at all like you expect.
  • Transstar (Raymond Banks): I didn’t think this story was all that good when I was reading it the other night, but its the one I kept thinking about for the next day. There are lots of interesting issues raised here — arrogance, response, the cost / benefit of aggression.
  • Time Piece (Joe Haldeman): this story is very much like a small summary of The Forever War, which makes it disappointing in a way… The book is better, and this story glosses over many of the issues.
  • Clash by Night (Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore): this story is interesting because it prompted a sub-genre all of its own about mercenaries in the future. However, this story is entertaining by not earth shatteringly great.

[isbn: 0446610895]

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Body Armor: 2000

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I love a good anthology, although I’d read a few of these stories before:

  • Contact! (David Drake): this story is quite unlike the other stuff of his that I have read, mostly because its set in the Vietnam War, not the far future. A good story with an excellent twist.
  • The Warbots (Larry S. Todd): this one wasn’t for me. I’m not sure what point the author was trying to make, if any. Its just a long history of imaginary weapons.
  • The Scapegoat (C. J. Cherryh): this is long, being a novella, and a little hard to read in places because the story jumps around. Overall, a good read though. My first Cherryh, although I have a lot queued up on the shelf.
  • The Last Crusade (George H. Smith): this was a good story, and would have fit well in Battlefields Beyond Tomorrow as it has a similar war-is-hopeless tone.
  • Hired Man (Richard C. Meredith): there is a nice twist at the end of this one, although its obvious a few pages before it happens.
  • Early Model (Robert Sheckley): I was surprised by this one, its the first Sheckley story I’ve read that I didn’t hate. Its not fantastic, but its way better than Bill the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Bottled Brains or his story in Foundation’s Friends.
  • In the Bone (Gordon R. Dickson): this story is odd, and I’m not 100% sure what I think of it. It was entertaining, but also a little hard to believe.
  • The Chemically Pure Warriors (Allen Kim Lang): this was a good story, being quite reminiscent of Tilley’s Amtrak Wars series.
  • Right To Life (Thomas A. Easton): this story is in the same vein as Make Room, Make Room! and Logan’s Run, whilst still being distinct and interesting.
  • Or Battle’s Sound (Harry Harrison): appeared in Battlefields Beyond Tomorrow.
  • Hero (Joe Haldeman): appeared in Battlefields Beyond Tomorrow, and was turned into The Forever War.

    [isbn: 0441069762]

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Bolos 1: Honor of the Regiment

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I’m quite partial to the idea of artificially intelligent super tanks. I think they’d simplify my social life quite a lot, for example. I’m also partial to short story collections, and this book is both of those. The short stories are written by some excellent authors as well, which certainly helps. This book continues on from The Compleat Bolo, although Laumer didn’t write any of the stories in this book. The stories follow two main patterns — long retired tanks which the locals don’t trust until they save the day; and stories about active combat. I guess that means you have to like war stories for these to work for you — the stories are quite similar to David Drake’s in that regard. Excellent, quick read.

[isbn: 0671721844]

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The Complete Hammer’s Slammers Volume 3

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This book consists of three paperbacks combined into one volume, and follows in from Volume 1 and Volume 2. I’ll cover each story separately:

  • The sharp end: this story is a little different from the other Hammer’s Slammers stuff. To be honest, its a bit less grim. Normally the stories are about how war is in the end just a bunch of guys trying to not die (for the grunts at least), whereas this story is a little bit more hopeful than that. Then again, there is still plenty of the negative side of war in this story.
  • Paying the piper: I’ve seen other people complain that this book is disjointed, which is a fair comment. Concepts are reintroduced several times, even though they’ve already been covered. I wonder if this was originally a set of short stories in a series? Its a good read however.
  • The darkness: a much shorter story, which is a lot more like the ones in Volume 1 and Volume 2.

[isbn: 9781892389800]

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Battlefields Beyond Tomorrow

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I read this anthology as a child, but when I found a copy on ebay that was cheap I couldn’t resist. This is a collection of short stories focusing on what war might be like in the future. It’s a good read, although a couple of the stories are out of place compared with the others.

  • Superiority (Arthur C Clarke)
  • Single Combat (Joe Green)
  • Committee of the Whole (Frank Herbert)
  • Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card): a classic, and in some ways I prefer the short story. I’ve read the extended series of novels a few years ago, but they’re probably worth revisiting at some point.
  • Hero (Joe E. Haldeman), later became The Forever War.
  • The Survivor (Walter F. Moudy): I have strong memories of this story from reading this anthology as a child. This is still a good story.
  • The Last Objective (Paul Carter)
  • What Do You Want Me to Do to Prove Im Human Stop (Fred Saberhagen): a Berserker story, also known as “Inhuman Error”.
  • Hangman (David Drake): this one is included in Volume 1 of the Complete Hammers Slammers.
  • The Night of the Trolls (Keith Laumer): this was a really good story about Bolos — good enough to send me out to buy some more Bolo books, which I will now have to add to my reading queue. This story was later expanded into The Stars Must Wait, which I didn’t think was nearly as good as the short story.
  • The Nuptial Flight of the Warbirds (Algis Budrys): this story was out of place with the rest of the collection, poorly written, and not very entertaining. I particularly didn’t like how it changed plot flow literally mid sentence without warning. I had to read that page three times to work out what was happening.
  • Mirror, Mirror (Alan E. Nourse)
  • The Miracle Workers (Jack Vance)
  • Memorial (Theodore Sturgeon)
  • Shark (Edward Bryant)
  • …Not a Prison Make (Joseph P. Martino): the ending came to suddenly in this story, but gosh its a good ending.
  • Hawk Among the Sparrows (Dean McLaughlin): this story reminds me strongly of the Axis of time stories from John Birmingham. This short story of course came first, and is a lot simpler in its examination of issues surrounding modern military hardware “falling through time” into previous wars.
  • No War, or Battle’s Sound (Harry Harrison)
  • The Defenders (Philip K. Dick)
  • In the Name of the Father (Edward P. Hughes)
  • On the Shadow of a Phosphor Screen (William F. Wu): this one didn’t really do anything for me — the premise that major corporations would be willing to solve disputes based on the outcome of war games seems very weak to me.
  • The Specter General (Theodore R. Cogswell): this story is awesome. Loved it.
  • Fixed Price War (Charles Sheffield)
  • The Long Watch (Robert A. Heinlein)
  • The Machine that Won the War (Isaac Asimov): included in Robot Dreams, as discussed in my list of Asimov Robot Stories.

[isbn: 0517641054]
[award: nebula_novella nominee 1968 (Hawk Among the Sparrows); nebula_short_story nominee1973 (Shark); locus_short_story nominee 1978 (Ender’s Game)]

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The Complete Hammer’s Slammers Volume 1

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It occurred to me over the weekend that it was odd that I was updating books I had recently read on a book site like goodreads, given that all I’m doing by entering data on their site is blogging someplace that not even I remember to read. I’m therefore going to move all of that stuff over to here, and then try to remember to blog about books I’ve read recently in the future. Don’t worry though, I don’t get much time to read in between work, study and kids, so it wont be too many posts.

Dad got me this and the second volume for my birthday last year, and they were awesome. The books are about a future tank squadron which takes on mercenary jobs, none of which ever seem to be clean or simple. Along the way you end up learning that they’re all just misfits who haven’t managed to find any other job which is a better fit for them. Worse than that, I’m left with the impression that in the back of their minds they all realize that they’re running on borrowed time. David Drake has a unique position to comment on what its like to fight in a war, given he is a Vietnam veteran. These stories are fantastic science fiction, and often leave you with a realization that war often isn’t simple, or fair. I first encountered David’s writing when I was a kid reading a remaindered anthology called “Battlefields Beyond Tomorrow”, which was a collection of short war science fiction stories. Luckily for me 15 or so years after I first encountered them I still think they are great stories. These books are highly recommended.

Stories included:

  • Under the Hammer
  • Supertanks
  • The Butcher’s Bill
  • The Church of the Lord’s Universe
  • But Loyal to His Own
  • Powerguns
  • Caught in the Crossfire
  • Backdrop to Chaos
  • Cultural Conflict
  • The Bonding Authority
  • Hangman
  • Table of Organization and Equipment, Hammer’s Regiment
  • Standing Down
  • Code-Name Feirefitz
  • The Interrogation Team
  • The Tank Lords
  • Liberty Port
  • Night March
  • The Immovable Object
  • The Irresistible Force
  • A Death in Peacetime

[isbn: 189238969X]

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