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#CBR6 Review #17: Antiagon Fire

Antiagon FireTarget: L. E. Modesitt, Jr.’s Antiagon Fire (Imager Portfolio #7)

Profile: Fantasy, Political Fiction, Military

After Action Report:

Two things struck me as I was preparing for this review:  First, I somehow managed to skip Imager’s Battalion during my utter failure of a Cannonball Read 5.  I read the book, but I never got a review up.  Second, I think I ran out of useful things to say about the series back at book five.  The things that I liked are still good, and the elements that are weaker don’t seem to be improving.  If anything, the series’ increasing focus on military action reduces the immediacy of Quaeryt’s story and undermines the relationship readers have been building over the course of the last three books.  While the increased presence of Quaeryt’s wife, Vaelora, is a welcome and well executed addition, more and more Quaeryt feels like a background character in his own story.

To fill in some blanks, Imager’s Battalion took Quaeryt from the world of politics into the military, placing him in command of the first squad of Imagers ever used in true military service.  Charged with the invasion of the hostile nation of Bovaria, Quaeryt and the army he accompanies face down an escalating series of challenges while balancing the need to subjugate with the desire to be fair to the citizens they encounter.  Antiagon Fire follows much in the same vein, as a newly promoted Quaeryt is sent as an envoy to the people of Khel in an attempt to prevent further war.  Along the way, he is attacked by forces from the 3rd remaining nation, Antiago, prompting another conflict.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #3 – Old Man’s War

Old Man's WarTarget: John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War

Profile: Science Fiction, Space Opera, Military

Summary: From the back cover, “John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space.  The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce–and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.
John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine–and what he will become is far stranger.”

After Action Report:

I’ve resisted reading this book for a very long time.  The reviews were just too universally good, and I’ve been burned that way before.  But after hearing Scalzi interviewed on NPR about his new book, Red Shirts, I finally started wondering what all the fuss was about.  And for once, I wasn’t disappointed.  Old Man’s War is a tremendous novel in an understated package that handles the horrors of war and the wonders of the final frontier with equal aplomb.  It approaches its subject matter with the correct mix of humility, awe and confidence to tie the reader to the plight of the cast, and even this fictional version of the human race.

Old Man’s War is narrated in first person perspective by John Perry, an aging ad copy writer.  He and his wife Kathy decided to get a second lease on life by joining the Colonial Defense Force.  But Kathy died before their number was up, so John is on his own as he enlists and becomes a part of humanity’s first line of defense.  Scalzi’s vision of the future has humanity expanding colonially into the stars, while Earth remains isolated.  But the galaxy is not empty and many other species desire the same resources we need.  Competition for planets and systems is fierce and humanity isn’t the big kid on the block.

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Lost Battles: Gates of Fire

Target: Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae

Profile: Historical Fiction, Military

Summary: From the back cover, “At Thermopylae, a rocky mountain pass in northern Greece, the feared and admired Spartan soldiers stood three hundred strong. Theirs was a suicide mission, to hold the pass against the invading millions of the mighty Persian army.

Day after bloody day they withstood the terrible onslaught, buying time for the Greeks to rally their forces. Born into a cult of spiritual courage, physical endurance, and unmatched battle skill, the Spartans would be remembered for the greatest military stand in history—one that would not end until the rocks were awash with blood, leaving only one gravely injured Spartan squire to tell the tale….

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