This was supposed to show up the blog directly from Goodreads, but I’m having technical difficulties. It’s in the Goodreads widget down below, but it didn’t transfer to the main blog page. It will probably show up twice on Facebook because I’m doing a manual re-post. For those who don’t read my book reviews, this will be one more thing for you to ignore.
So, without further ado…
I had never read this anthology in its originally published form, so when it was re-released this year I decide to pick it up. It is an interesting collection of shorts, essays, and a few poems revolving around the theme of warfare, past & future.
If you are a military history fan, the essays might appeal to you. The science related ones were interesting, but things have changed since the Cold War died, so the ideas, while still plausible, could use a good update/corollary added to them to comment on their viability and usefulness in the modern global setting.
The updated introductions to each entry by Pournelle can also provide interesting tidbits on his career and interactions with other Science Fiction authors. I like those ‘author stories’ a bit, so I found that compelling to read as well.
The short stories are my main interest; however, and I will review them individually below.
BOOK AVERAGE = 3 STARS
SHORT STORIES (AVERAGE 3.5 STARS)
REFLEX by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (3 stars)
This story is about a space battle in Pournelle’s CoDominium Universe. It was the written as the first chapter of The Mote in God’s Eye, but got cut for length. The topic is dedication to cause vs. rules of war. You can understand the story, but maybe not the tech unless you’ve read Mote first.
SPANISH MAN’S GRAVE by James Warner Bellah (5 stars)
Not Sci-Fi, but one hell of a story. A group of soldiers in the wild west push themselves to the breaking point to rescue a young girl from a savage Indian raiding party.
MARIUS by Poul Anderson (3 stars)
A story about a great soldier in war making a poor politician in peacetime. I found it suspenseful, wondering what would happen, because you can sense from the start that something would.
ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card (5 stars)
I believe this is the original short story that later turned into the novel. It is the portion of Ender Wiggin’s story from his leadership through the endgame of the war. Ender’s Game is one of my favorite books of all time. If you have not read that, do so first before reading this, because this short story is a little different, and this might spoil some things for you.
A DEATH IN REALTIME by Richard Sean McEnroe (3 stars)
Modern tech can make war seem just like a game, but when it’s real, there are no resets.
OVERDOSE by Spider Robinson (4 stars)
This one is a trip…literally. A stoned army private saves the world with hallucinations. It’s far out man!
DIASPORAH by W. R. Yates (3 stars)
Nuclear Mutually Assured Destruction as portrayed between a Muslim Caliphate and Isreal. Eerily apropos to today’s headlines (late 2015).
HIS TRUTH GOES MARCHING ON by Jerry Pournelle (3.5 stars)
Idealistic inexperienced soldiers experience disillusionment in the face of a real war being run by battlefield politicians. Good storytelling here.
THE DEFENDERS by Philip K. Dick (2 stars)
Humanity hides underground while robot proxies fight the cold war gone hot for them above ground… or so they think. It was a good story up until the rushed ending and diatribe of kumbya singing. For me, another typical PKD disappointment.
UNLIMITED WARFARE by Hayford Peirce (3 stars)
A humorous tale about a lesson in reciprocity and unintended consequences is learned when the British try to use bio-warefare to secretly destroy France’s culture. You have to read this one with British & French accents in your head.
THE BATTLE by Robert Sheckley (2 stars)
Winning isn’t everything, sometimes the doing is the important part. Humanity finds this out when they let the military fight the Battle of Armageddon with robots.
RANKS OF BRONZE by David Drake (4 stars)
A Roman legion fights a hoard of barbarian aliens on a distant planet. This one is a great story with excellent military detail. This is how mil-sf should be written.
I AM NOTHING by Eric Frank Russell (5 stars)
It takes a diametrically opposite viewpoint to show a dictator his own inner self. I won’t say any more detail than that to keep from spoiling this superbly written and emotionally evocative story. It has the feels and made me misty eyed. Go read it.
CALL HIM LORD by Gordon R. Dickson (3 stars)
The Prince and future Emperor of Mankind returns to humanity’s homeworld, Earth, to gain a better understanding of its roots… or so he thinks. An excellent story with a twist ending.
QUIET VILLAGE by David McDaniel (4 stars)
In the 27th century, the Scouts (an organization descended from the Boy Scouts) act as a Marshall service for hire in a formerly high-tech society that reverted to subsistence living after a plague wiped out the population nearly 300 years in the past.
POEMS (AVERAGE 2.7 stars)
SAUL’S DEATH by Joe Haldeman (4 stars)
I had never heard of a sestina until this. I found the form to be genius, and the stories told by it here were amazing.
TWO POEMS: CITY KILLER (1 star) AND GROUND ZERO (3 stars) by Jon Post (Avg. 2 stars)
City Killer is in a form I don’t like. Ground Zero is iambic pentameter and well written.
THE WIDOW’S PARTY by Rudyard Kipling (2 stars)
I’m not huge Kipling fan, so this one really didn’t do it for me.
ESSAYS (AVERAGE 1.5 stars)
THE THREAT by the Committee on Space War of the Citizens’ Advisory Council on National Space Policy. (1 star) – boring
THE GOOD NEWS OF HIGH FRONTIER by Robert A. Heinlein (1 star) – rhetorical; boring
PROJECT HIGH FRONTIER by Lt. General Daniel O. Graham (1 star) – sales pitch essay; boring
MERCENARIES AND MILITARY VIRTUE by Jerry Pournelle (2.5 stars)
A speculative discussion of potential directions that the republic/military might move in base on 1980’s historical facts.
THE STRATEGY OF TECHNOLOGY by Jerry Pournelle
I only skimmed this one because it felt dull. Essays and treatises are not my thing. I won’t rank it.
THOR: ORBITAL WEAPON SYSTEM by the Weapons Committee of the Citizens’ Advisory Council on National Space Policy. (2 stars)
Interesting concepts for a KEW (Kinetic Energy Weapon). The science discussion is interesting, but it’s a treatise on an idea which bores me, mostly.