The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Veterans: The Next Generation

Posted on | November 12, 2013 | 39 Comments


There’s never been any shortage of military vets among SF writers, the most obvious example being Robert Heinlein. More recently, David Drake and Joe Haldeman have sold a fair amount of books informed by their experiences in Vietnam, and between the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan, it should surprise nobody that we have a new crop of authors whose combat SF has overtones colored by the most recent wars.

We’ve discussed John Ringo before, and in truth he’s more of a Cold War figure. Mike Williamson and Tom Kratman, on the other hand…definitely products of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. For those of you that came in late, “Mad” Mike Williamson made a big splash with Freehold, the tale of a UN supply sergeant who flees to the libertarian world of Grainne to escape a frame, only to discover she’s jumped from the frying pan into the fire when the UN invades to reduce the rebellious “colony” to obedience. Freehold was followed by The Weapon and Rogue, which showed different aspects (and the aftermath) of the UN/Grainne war, and these in turn were followed by a First Contact novel, Contact with Chaos. Other books set in the same universe include the Ripple Creek series, starting with Better to Beg Forgiveness, in which a Grainne-based bodyguard outfit takes on the protection of various notables, sometimes with the “help” of UN security forces. In a stark contrast to portrayals of the UN in SF from the 1950s, Williamson’s UN is an extrapolation of the present highly dysfunctional organization into an even more dysfunctional world government, where effectiveness doesn’t count nearly as much as connections and appearance. The UN colonies depicted in the Ripple Creek stories are all Third World hellholes, dumping grounds for the troublesome and annoying minorities who couldn’t afford the ticket to Grainne or couldn’t stand the idea of not being able to oppress their neighbors. Despite all this, Williamson doesn’t lecture you about how awesome libertarianism is; he just lays out the background and tells a damn good action story. I recommend all of the preceding most enthusiastically.

Tom Kratman, on the other hand…took a while for me to warm up to him. I skipped his debut novel A State of Disobedience after reading sample chapters and finding it more of a polemical technothriller than I wanted to deal with, and the same was true of his collaboration with John Ringo, Watch on the Rhine: Die Wacht am Rhein, a Posleen War side novel showing a Germany so desperate for (effective) troops that they combed the old soldiers’ homes and hospices for SS veterans to put through rejuv. This time the polemic came with a side order of (what I felt at the time was) gratuitous gore and horror, but at least I finished it – and revised my opinion later. The breakthrough came with Caliphate, a brutal novel that could have been written by Bruce Bawer or Mark Steyn but wasn’t.* Caliphate is the world we get after The Camp of the Saints (or Steyn’s America Alone, if you prefer) becomes our future, where an America that has become an empire faces off against a Muslim Eurasia. Most of the story revolves around a German girl sold as a slave to pay her family’s jizya and her brother, taken to serve as a Janissary, and what happens to them as an American spy on a mission lands in what used to be Germany. After that, I picked up A Desert Called Peace, in which the specter of global jihad stalks a new Earth light-years away – and one man, whose wife and children were slain in that world’s equivalent to 9/11, finds himself with the means to exact an epic revenge, despite the interference of the UN. Kratman has some things to say in this series about the feminization of the US military (see The Amazon Legion) and the general uselessness of the EU militaries (Come and Take Them) but by and large the Carrera novels are much in the style of Caliphate: brutal, unsparing looks at wars and what it takes to win them. Recommended.
Kratman is also working on another series, jokingly referred to as “Grumpy Old Men Goes To War”, which begins with Countdown: The Liberators. Can’t tell you what I think because I haven’t read it or its sequels. Yet.

*Mark helpfully reviewed Caliphate along with Robert Ferrigno’s Prayers for the Assassin for Macleans here.


39 Responses to “Veterans: The Next Generation”

  1. Citzcom
    November 12th, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

    Veterans: The Next Generation: – Wombat-socho There’s never been any shortage of military vets among SF writer…

  2. jwbrown1969
    November 12th, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

    Veterans: The Next Generation: – Wombat-socho There’s never been any shortage of military vets among SF writer…

  3. Lockestep1776
    November 12th, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

    Veterans: The Next Generation: – Wombat-socho There’s never been any shortage of military vets among SF writer…

  4. ChandlersGhost
    November 12th, 2013 @ 7:06 pm

    Huh. I’m not a big SF fan, but Caliphate might be up my alley.

  5. Kevin Trainor Jr.
    November 12th, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

    Kevin Trainor Jr. liked this on Facebook.

  6. gary4205
    November 12th, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

    RT @smitty_one_each: TOM Veterans: The Next Generation #TCOT

  7. rsmccain
    November 12th, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

    Veterans: The Next Generation by @wombat_socho

  8. DocWashburn
    November 12th, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

    RT @rsmccain: Veterans: The Next Generation by @wombat_socho

  9. thatMrGguy
    November 12th, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

    Veterans: The Next Generation

  10. exposeliberals
    November 12th, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

    RT @rsmccain: Veterans: The Next Generation by @wombat_socho

  11. Veterans: The Next Generation | Dead Citizen's Rights Society
    November 12th, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

    […] Veterans: The Next Generation […]

  12. Wombat_socho
    November 12th, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

    It’s certainly a good example of Twenty Minutes Into The Future. And a good read besides.

  13. JeffWeimer
    November 12th, 2013 @ 8:34 pm

    I like the Williamson stuff, but I will have to read The Weapon and Rogue after I get through all the free stuff I got with last years “Planet Baen” game. I did pick up Contact with Chaos and am reading it now. I finally got through the last of Drake’s Leary series.

  14. rustypaladin
    November 12th, 2013 @ 11:44 pm

    Heads up: The Kindle version of Caliphate is free on Amazon right now.

  15. RS
    November 13th, 2013 @ 12:07 am

    I bought Wacht am Rhein on a whim and for cheap. It was my first (and only) Posleen novel. I didn’t find it to be particularly interesting. The characters were one dimensional. I think a better premise would’ve involved Germany resurrecting its long atrophied marshal instincts some other way without going into the touchy SS rejuv business. Perhaps some of Ringo’s own Posleen novels are worth a go, but I’m afraid Wacht put me off trying any more.

  16. Just Another Dave
    November 13th, 2013 @ 12:55 am

    Best to start at the beginning, to get the best reflection of Ringo’s ‘Tales of the Aldenata’ (Posleen). I think the side novels are not the best way to approach the series, since ‘Watch” takes place half-way through the series and there are some parts that make more sense when you read the previous novels.

  17. Wombat_socho
    November 13th, 2013 @ 7:20 am

    Agree completely with this.

  18. Wombat_socho
    November 13th, 2013 @ 7:20 am

    As is A Desert Called Peace.

  19. Tom Kratman
    November 13th, 2013 @ 7:48 am

    “without going into the touchy SS rejuv business,” is probably the core of your objection. It is for a lot of people. Sorry, no, “some other way” might have spared some sensitive and caring feelings, which frankly didn’t matter to me, but would not have met _my_ objectives, which did. For a more complete discussion, go here:

  20. Tom Kratman
    November 13th, 2013 @ 9:18 am

    Any number of people would claim that I don’t write SF at all. 😉 There are a number of reasons for this, some more defensible than others. Among the indefensible reasons is a presumption of progress that I don’t share. Closely related is that I despise libleprism (liblepr = liberal, leftist, progressive, red), while SF has largely (not entirely, but largely) been taken over by those same libleprs. Another- and more legitimate – reason is that I de-emphacize technology to a degree. The best way to phrase what I write is, I think, “social speculative fiction,” because I mostly explore what I think will happen to society / societies.

  21. RS
    November 13th, 2013 @ 9:19 am

    Thanks for responding. I think part of my queasiness has to do with having German relatives of that former time currently lying in the embrace of Mother Russia along the Volga.


  22. Tom Kratman
    November 13th, 2013 @ 9:26 am

    I have no idea what you mean by that. Really. There’s a disconnect there that I can’t quite get my head around. You have relatives who were KIA on the eastern front, and so…???

    Note, by the way, that about a quarter of my gene pool, the “Ikey, Mikey, Jake, and Sam, we’re the boys who eat no ham” quarter, went up the chimneys as smoke and ash. “So why use the SS, Kratman, you fascist beast?” Because – see the RPG thread – they were perfect for the points.

  23. RS
    November 13th, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    You seem to be taking offense to my comments, where I meant none. Nor do I imply or believe that you have some sort of “fascist beast.” I only suggest that for me, considering my background and the reticence of my elders to speak about that time, and then only in critical terms, prevented me from appreciating that novel. Alas, this is not the forum for a detailed explanation, but I hold no personal animosity toward you. I just couldn’t get into Wacht. In fact, after reading the Wombat’s post, I ordered Caliphate from Amazon, because the premise interests me.


  24. RS
    November 13th, 2013 @ 10:32 am

    I should mention, the premise of Caliphate is something I find all too likely, given the trajectory Europe appears to be on at the moment. Bruce Bawer was mentioned in Wombat’s post. Things are much worse in Europe now than when Bruce wrote his first book some years back.

  25. Tom Kratman
    November 13th, 2013 @ 10:50 am

    You shouldn’t have ordered it; it’s free on kindle. And, no, the “fascist beast” comment is a short version of all kinds of hate and discontent I raised, generally, across the net. Dig around for the highly amusing review by Thomas Wagner, for example, or look for Dietmar Dath’s Weltretter Himmler, in FAZ.

    But I still don’t understand what your relatives’ reticence has to do with using the Waffen SS to illustrate a moral and practical point, and I am still pretty sure that both your objection, and stated belief that the characters were one dimensional (of course, some numbers of them were; you’ll get that when you have a large cast), arises from an objection to using the SS that, in your case, I really don’t understand and that you haven’t really explained.

    By the way, what makes you think that the SS were rejuved to resurrect Germany’s martial instincts, per se? There were not enough of them for that. No, they were resurrected because they would have been available and they could be counted on for political dirty work, at need., which need the (social democrat, be it noted, but realistic social democrat) Kanzler anticipated.

  26. Tom Kratman
    November 13th, 2013 @ 10:52 am

    Caliphate’s actually as much or more about what happens to us than what happens to Europe, about which I really don’t care all that much.

  27. RS
    November 13th, 2013 @ 11:39 am

    I buy books. I’m doing my part to keep pulp producers employed. 🙂

    As for the rest, I understand I haven’t explained it. As I indicated earlier, this really isn’t the place for a detailed exposition. That said, I shall try to find the book which has been boxed up in my basement since I moved a few years ago and give it another read.


  28. ChandlersGhost
    November 13th, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

    Dude, I’ll read the book. 😉

  29. Tom Kratman
    November 13th, 2013 @ 2:59 pm

    Hmmmm…time is money, so I don’t know if I would advise doing that. As Dave wrote above, it’s better if you read the whole series, in order. And, moreover, first impressions are lasting. It’s _really_ unlikely that a reread will overcome those.

  30. Tom Kratman
    November 13th, 2013 @ 3:01 pm

    Which one? Caliphate? My comment applies to everything I’ve published.

  31. Just Another Dave
    November 13th, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

    Wow. A mention by Wombat and Mr. Kratman in the same thread! I’m 50% through the RPG thread and so far, the butthurt is pretty apparent, from many people who admit they haven’t read the books! So far, I can’t figure out why/how you got banned, but I’ll stay tuned.

  32. Tom Kratman
    November 13th, 2013 @ 11:21 pm

    Wombat notified Mike and I on FB that this thread was up.

    I courted getting banned, later on, when the fun meter had already pegged out and I felt like insulting the more moronic denizens of the board. It’s in a different thread.

  33. Just Another Dave
    November 13th, 2013 @ 11:46 pm

    Ah, then I may not spend the evening looking further than where I have been. Oh, and a belated Veteran’s Day “Thank you”, sir.
    Absent friends, and all the rest.

  34. Tom Kratman
    November 14th, 2013 @ 12:06 am

    Hell, I enjoyed my time; no thanks necesssary.

  35. Wombat_socho
    November 14th, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

    You’re still in the ghetto with the rest of us, Colonel. 😉

  36. M. Thompson
    November 15th, 2013 @ 10:30 am

    Either way, your money is no good for (theoretical) drinks around here, sir.

  37. FMJRA 2.0: Day Late & A Dollar Short : The Other McCain
    November 18th, 2013 @ 3:49 am

    […] Veterans: The Next Generation […]

  38. Blood, Horror, And Other Things I Found At The Library : The Other McCain
    November 25th, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

    […] Wombat-socho Unusually, we don’t have any leftover recommendations from the comments the last book post two weeks ago, although for those of you who missed it, there’s some words from Tom Kratman in the […]

  39. Blood, Horror, And Other Things I Found At The Library | Dead Citizen's Rights Society
    November 25th, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

    […] Wombat-socho Unusually, we don’t have any leftover recommendations from the comments the last book post two weeks ago, although for those of you who missed it, there’s some words from Tom Kratman in the comments. […]