The Other McCain

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

Mamelukes, Marines, & A Wizard

Posted on | June 7, 2020 | Comments Off on Mamelukes, Marines, & A Wizard

— by Wombat-socho

I became a fan of Jerry Pournelle’s SF back in 1972, when I read “The Mercenary” in Analog, and for the next 40+ years I snapped up pretty much everything he wrote in the way of SF, and quite a few of the anthologies he edited as well. One of those books, in the summer of 1979, was Janissaries, in which Rick Galloway and a handful of mercenaries are saved from certain death in Africa…by aliens. The aliens take them to the planet Tran, where they find several groups of humans from different ages of human history, and things begin to go sideways for Galloway at that point as most of his men desert him in favor of the more experienced Andre Parsons. Things eventually work out for Galloway, who consistently chooses the hard right over the easy wrong, and over the next two novels (co-written with Roland Green) he makes considerable headway toward raising the tech level on Tran, maneuvering in the lethal local politics, and getting started on growing the madweed the aliens want. Unfortunately, the third novel in the series came out in 1987, and while Pournelle announced periodic progress, Mamelukes never made it into print until after his death. I have to say that I wouldn’t have minded seeing it finished sooner, but David Weber and Philip Pournelle did a good job of wrapping the story up seamlessly. I for one can’t tell where Jerry’s writing left off and David & Philip picked up, and if they choose to let the series lay at this point, I’d be okay with it. On the other hand, there are a few plot threads that could be followed into a fifth (and, perhaps, concluding) novel, and we shall see what the Pournelle kids want to do with it. We know Jennifer has the chops for it, and perhaps Philip could do the fifth novel justice as well. Very much worth your time.

Rick Partlow’s Contact Front is an interesting mil-SF novel. Instead of the usual wholesome hero, we get a Marine who chooses to join the Confederation Marines to avoid facing trial for murder, and while Cam Alvarez proves to be really good at mastering the powered armor suits, he’s pretty awful at being a leader, and his struggles with the concept of taking responsibility for his Marines take up a good part of the novel in between a couple of furious combat actions. This was a good read, and I’m looking forward to checking the rest of the series out. Available on Kindle Unlimited.

I’m probably one of the last people in the world to get around to reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels, about Chicago’s only wizard for hire and his uneasy relationship with both the Chicago PD, local crimelord Johnny Marcone, and his nominal superiors in the White Council – to say nothing of all manner of supernatural critters, demons, vampires, and just plain Bad People. Right now I have some extra cash and plenty of free time, so I’m starting from the beginning and digging into what may be the most entertaining urban fantasy since I discovered Larry Correia’s Monster Hunters International series. So far I’m only up to book 3, Grave Peril, and Butcher does not disappoint. Looking forward to getting caught up on the other…fourteen books? Well, after moving out to the middle of nowhere (a/k/a Tonopah, NV) I’ll have nothing to do but eat, sleep, and work on my continuing education for next tax season, so I should have plenty of time to work on finishing the series.

So far nobody has taken me up on my offer regarding Uncle Bob’s Pursuit of the Pankera, and that’s all right with me, to be honest. Life is too short to be reading crappy books, unless you’re getting paid well for the effort.

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