Their Finest Hour

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]

Bolo Series

Created by Keith Laumer and then followed on by many others, this series was very entertaining whilst not being fine literature.

Dogs of War

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.
Dogs of War Book Cover Dogs of War
David Drake
January 1, 2002

Military authors have entered the mainstream science fiction genre and continue to leave their mark. David Drake pays homage to his own sub-genre by collecting ten classic stories of men-at-arms by top writers including himself.

Bolo Strike

There is a planet populated by humans which has been isolated for many years. In that time, aliens have come to rule the planet and treat the humans as slaves. Its pretty clear that they need liberating, right? What if you trash the planet in the process? What if they actually have the ability to defend themselves (something you didn’t adequately prepare for)? Pretty standard bolo fare, and fun for all the same reasons as the others. I enjoyed this book, even if I am not a better person for having read it.

[isbn: 0743435664]

Bolo Rising

In the distant future after the Melconians have done their thing, there is a small pocket of humans and they’re having a bad day. One of things I like about the Bolo books is that their consistent in their overall direction for future human history, and that future is reasonably plausible — its a bit like Asimov’s extended Foundation Series, but written by a bunch of different authors. There must have been a huge coordination effort while producing these books.

This book is pretty standard Bolo fair, which is well written and entertaining. It wont make you a better person, but its a fun read and makes you think.

[isbn: 0671577794]

Bolo Brigade

There seems to be a formula for bolo books — an obsolete bolo or two, and alien invader, a solitary bolo commander, and preferably a management chain which either doesn’t trust bolos, the officer, or preferably both. Its even better if the chain of command is also grossly incompetent. This book has all of those, and I am left feeling that it didn’t really add much to the overall bolo universe. Other books have explored some new aspect of the bolo psyche, or expanded on the history of the concordiat universe in some way, whereas this book didn’t feel like it did any of that.

However, this was an entertaining book, and is reasonably well written. It just wasn’t as ambitious as I’d hoped it would be.

[isbn: 067187781x]

The Stars Must Wait

This book is a novelization of “Night of the Trolls”, which I have already read as part of The Compleat Bolo and Battlefields Beyond Tomorrow. I’m pretty fond of the short story, and this book version didn’t start out strongly — there is a prelude to explain some background, and then the book launches into what feels like the exact text of the short story. You can tell it hasn’t been edited much, because there are minor continuity errors between this first chapter and the prelude. There are other continuity errors as well — the blurb on the back says that the main character goes into stasis in 2002, but his wife dies in 1992 which is meant to be after the main character goes into stasis, and the map that he uses once out of stasis is copyright 2011 (even though the main character claims to have bought it just before going into stasis). Note that these dates are different to those used in the short story. These errors are distracting although the underlying story is still a good one.

However, the good bits of the story are all contained in the short story. This feels like a poorly edited and heavily padded version of that short story, and I think we would have been better off without it. There is in fact a whole heap of seemingly pointless dialogue in the center of the book, where I think what we’re meant to be learning is that post-apocalyptic life isn’t much fun. I think we could have worked that out, and perhaps saved 50 or so pages. Worst of all, Laumer has changed the ending to a much less satisfying one.

I recommend just sticking with the short story.

The Stars Must Wait Book Cover The Stars Must Wait
Keith Laumer

Astronaut John Jackson expects to wake from suspended animation in another world, but instead he opens his eyes a century later to an Earth populated by post-Armageddon nasties

Bolos 6: Cold Steel

This bolo book is different from the previous ones, in that it heavily focuses on the humans side of the story, instead of the bolo’s inner monologue. I’ve seen reviews online that say this makes it a bad bolo book, but I think that’s unfair. The bolos are critical to the telling of this story, and you do hear from them. More than that, ultimately a point about the relationship between bolos and humans is being made that would be a lot harder to make if the story was told from the bolo side of the fence.

This was a good book and I enjoyed it.

[isbn: 0743435494]

Bolos 5: Old Guard

This book is similar to the previous Bolo anthologies in that it is written by a number of different authors, but utilizes Laumer’s Concordiat universe. Contrary to another LibraryThing review, all of the stories on this book don’t occur on one planet. All but one of them occurs on Delas, and the final one is on another nearby Concordiat planet. However, all of these stories do revolve around engagements with one enemy, and follow on from each other. This is something which hasn’t occurred in other Bolo anthologies. I enjoyed this book, although it took longer to read than I would like because of other things happen in my life.

Old Guard Book Cover Old Guard
Keith Laumer, Bill Fawcett,
Baen Books

The human civilizations of Earth and its colonies confront a new threat--the warlike alien Kezdai--and send out the Bolos, self-aware robotic tanks, to deal with the danger. Original.

Bolos 2: The Unconquerable

This is another collection of short stories involving Laumer’s Bolo artificially intelligent super tanks. None of these stories are written by Laumer, but they are written by some very good SF authors. I enjoyed the collection, although I do think Honor of the Regiment was marginally better.

The Unconquerable Book Cover The Unconquerable
Keith Laumer
Pocket Books

Standing guard as the tireless protectors of the human race, the electronic Bolos fight against alien computer viruses that infect them, repel attacks by space pirates, outmaneuver alien robot intelligences, and struggle with their own programming. Original.