Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Planet too Far

Title: Steel Gauntlet (Starfist Book 3)
Authors: David Sherman and Dan Cragg
Bookmark: receipt from seafood dinner and hot chocolate.

It became apparent very early in this book that the writers were both military men. It was left at my place by a visiting friend who was done with it in exchange for a Ludlum. I got hosed on the trade.

Glancing at the cover, even reading the back, assured me that this was pulp sci-fi, and would soon prove to be bad, if not terrible. Who says you can't judge a book by its cover?

Synopsis: Nobody uses tanks anymore, so all of the anti-tank weapons have been dismantled and recycled except for the 11 museum pieces. When Marston St. Cyr, a pathologically insane industrialist who thinks "hostile takeover" involves shooting everyone else in the boardroom (and their families, staff, and business allies plus THEIR families and staff) uses his extensive R&D budget not to research new mining methods, but to build several battalions of tanks to aid in his takeover of a corporate-controlled resource-rich planet, nobody has anything that can stop him. A history prof is recruited to train Marines in antiquated technology while somebody else gets busy making shitloads of anti-tank missiles, then they all get dropped on this planet to blow up tanks and get incinerated by plasma weapons in turns.

Lessons learned (and heavily hammered home, over and over, as bluntly as possible):
  1. Marines are awesome. They can do anything, and always win, even if they lose a few men, or are insufficiently armed. They may even attack a tank with only two men carrying sidearms, and win.
  2. Army screws things up for marines
  3. Many high officers are boneheads, cannot be trusted, and make extremely poor decisions. Except Marine officers.
  4. Diplomats are pompous gasbags who don't like Marines.
  5. War is hell.
  6. Violence solves problems, and is an acceptable means of vengeance.
It's heavy-handed and ham-fisted. Imagine a description of a months-long war in which every skirmish is described, with names of vital participants, full radio chatter, details of every shot fired, and post-shooting grumbling of poor management decisions. I gave up trying to keep all the characters straight in the fourth chapter, and just let everyone shoot each other until it was over. The closing chapters involving a hostage situation in an abandoned mine (no, really--the villain had a lair in a mountain, just like a James Bond villain. Kinda named like one, too, for that matter) were by far the best and most interesting of the book. The rest was readable, but a little too plodding to really be entertaining.

For the sake of placating anyone who randomly comes across this blog, because we've had more of that lately, let's be clear on a couple points:
  1. Marines are awesome. I'm a big fan of all our armed forces, and fully recognize and appreciate their efforts at putting themselves in harm's way to protect and serve the rest of us. Even if they do occasionally receive asinine orders.
  2. I even like books about the armed forces. (Note the above Ludlum reference, and the Clancy thrillers I read before starting this blog)
  3. A bad book, despite the subject matter, is still a bad book. But often fun to review. Hence the name of the blog.

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posted by reyn at 9:01 AM


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