The Other McCain

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

A Book Post For Hanukkah

Posted on | December 19, 2022 | Comments Off on A Book Post For Hanukkah

— by Wombat-socho

You know it’s been too long since the last book post when you have to go back and look at the archives to see when you did the last one and what you covered. I’ll try to do better next year, if I can pry myself away from the damn video games…

“He’s the type of person Commissars are supposed to shoot.”

Let’s lead off with something that is simultaneously hilarious and depressing: Kurt Schlichter’s Inferno, the seventh of the Kelly Turnbull action novels set in a post-national divorce America. It’s really too bad that Bruce Willis is past his prime, because he’d be a perfect Kelly Turnbull in the movies – anyway, this book is equal parts Road Warrior and eerie echo of the Roman Republic, in which it looks like Red America’s commanding general in California looks like he’s about to march on Texas with a whole collection of misfit auxiliary troops who are loyal to him and not the government in Austin. Plus, there’s a stray nuclear weapon and an apocalyptic cult to deal with in the debatable lands that used to be Oregon. If you liked the previous six Turnbull books, this one won’t disappoint; Schlichter is good at writing both action and political intrigue, and does a good job of segueing from one to the other.

More on the comedy side is the latest Commissar Cain omnibus from Sandy Mitchell: Ciaphas Cain, Saviour Of The Imperium. Unlike most of the other Warhammer 40k novels I’ve read, which tend to be turgid, prolix, and slightly more grimdark than The GULAG Archipelago, the Ciaphas Cain novels are light-hearted and humorous, despite the formula of Cain being sent to deal with a problem only to stumble on something EVEN WORSE. TVTropes insists that Cain is a synthesis of Captain Blackadder and Harry Flashman, but they’ve only got it half right – the Blackadder part. Cain is far too considerate of his troops and his ladies* to be the selfish cad Flashman was, and in fact more closely resembles Dand McNeil from Fraser’s The General Danced At Dawn, particularly because of Private McAuslan, who is obviously (somehow) the ancestor of Gunner Jurgen. Anyhow, three novels and some short stories about the commissar’s misadventures in the dark future where there is only war.** Recommended despite the extortionate price – and I should note here that all three of the Cain omnibus collections are finally available on the Kindle.

I am willing to bet money that if he lives to be 100 and writes as many books, Marko Kloos will not write anything as good as the Frontlines series, which concluded this fall with the eighth book in the series, Centers of Gravity. The saga of humanity’s war against the alien Lankies has been quite a tale, and Kloos ends it on an upbeat note with Andrew Grayson and (most) of his compatriots escaping from what looks like certain death, hundreds of light-years from Earth. As much as I would like to see more books in the series, leading up to the ultimate triumph of humanity over the Lankies (or at least a negotiated peace) I can see why Kloos decided to end it here. Worth your time, especially if you read the first seven.

* He can’t afford not to, since one of his ladies is an Inquisitor.
** And a few wry chuckles, guffaws, and belly laughs.

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