Saturday, February 26, 2011

Poul Anderson, John Ringo and Mike Resnick at their best

Sir Dominic Flandry The Last Knight of Terra
Poul Anderson
Baen, Dec 7 2010, $13.00
ISBN: 9781439134016

“Earthman, Go Home”
. Although the natives prefer he leave, Captain Sir Dominic Flandry of the Intelligence Corps, Imperial Terrestrial Navy visits the lost world Unan Besar. His mission is to bring the planet back into the Terran Empire before the Merseians use it as a military base.

“Hunters of the Sky Cave”
. Flandry helps a woman escape from a Merseian supported insurgency while setting up a counterinsurgency, but ponders that “We Claim These Stars” even while the Terran Empire will go the way of previous superpowers during the Long Night

“The Warriors from Nowhere”
. Flandry battles his Merseian adversary Aycharaych, who has the advantage of telepathy.

"A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows"
. The Terran Empire is rapidly decaying as fortyish Flandry knows due partly from high level corruption. When Molitor seizes control, Flandry supports him as he believes a strong military leader is the only hope to prevent the Empire from imploding immediately. He also recently learns he has a son after a tryst with Persis the dancer and begins one with aristocratic slave Kossara from Dennitza. However, he will soon find out that his greatest success leaves him empty with nothing more than pride for accomplishing his job, no challenges left that matters, and a despondent look back at what he achieved and what he failed at.

The four reprints are entertaining tales of outer space daring do. The first three star the carefree James Bond in space swashbuckling hero, which feel somewhat repetitive although Hunters of the Sky Cave hint at a darker outlook. The last contribution is superb as a middle age Flandry muses that all he did over the last couple of decades was place his thumb in the dyke while the slow flood of rot and decay spreads; he concludes he slowed down the death of the empire as all nations turn to stardust. Harriet Klausner

John Ringo
Baen, Jan 4 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9781439134009

Tycoon Tyler Vernon converted the large asteroid Troy into a tremendous battle station that along with the Solar Array Pumped Laser humans was used to drive away the invading octopi-like Horvath (see Live Free or Die) from the Sol System. However, an even more dangerous threat has entered the solar system as the reptilian Rangora Empire invades with plans to occupy Earth after it has destroyed the only human ally in a deadly serpentine blitzkrieg.

Vernon realizes quickly that the Troy battle station will be overwhelmed by this brutal enemy like the Nazis did the Maginot Line; if it falls Vernon knows no Homer will write the epic of the Citadel that saved earthlings. He proposes an offensive assault rather than a defensive line. His plan is to take the war to the heart of the Empire forcing the Rangora to divert troops to homeland defense. The Spiral Arm Wars are just beginning to heat up with the First Battle of E Eridani.

The Troy Rising second outer space tale (see Live Free or Die) is an exciting military science fiction thriller, which starts very slow action wise yet insightful as the reader meets numerous cast members (mostly humans) who provide their viewpoint to the upcoming hostilities. Once the combat ignites, the plot soars into hyperspeed as John Ringo once again salutes American ingenuity and creative capitalists (must have been in the Asteroid Belt during the economic meltdown) climaxed with a great outer space battle. Harriet Klausner

The Buntline Special
Mike Resnick
PYR, Dec 7 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616142490

In 1881, the leadership of the United States of America still dreams of manifest destiny to the Pacific though the country’s western border remains The Mississippi. On the other side of the mighty river is rich land occupied by Indian tribes with powerful shaman whose magic has kept the Americans frustratingly in the east.

The government sends the great inventor Thomas Edison, who has worked with Ned Buntline on a horseless stagecoach, on a quest to determine whether science and technology can defeat magic. The Earp brothers escort Edison to Tombstone, Arizona where a last stand is forming. On one side is the enigmatic Edison, the Earp siblings and their pals Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson. On the other side are two separate deadly foes; the dangerous Apaches led by Geronimo the most powerful Medicine Man and the Clanton gang who are abetted by the once dead Johnny Ringo.

With seemingly none of the real persona purebred human, there is an overabundance of paranormal leaving the Arizona confrontations entertaining, but also never moves out on the larger theme of manifest destiny propelled by science and technology as opposed by magic. Thus fans of steampunk thrillers will enjoy The Buntline Special as a fun exciting Weird West Tale at the OK Corral, but never quite obtains the revolutionary quality of the author’s wonderful alternate history Dragon America.
Harriet Klausner

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