Monday, February 09, 2009

Review: Stark's War, Stark's Command, and Stark's Crusade

For those who don't know, John G. Hemry is the same person who wrote all of the Lost Fleet series as Jack Campbell. This series, rather than being about space ships and relativity, is about war on the moon. At least, that's the military shtick. Hemry works through all the implications of fighting in 1/6th gravity, including what you have to do to muzzle velocities in order to keep your bullets from achieving orbits.

But that's not really what the series is about --- it's about empire and ossification, and what tends to happen in large organizations that stay successful for too long, and end up with promotion systems that encourage cronyism and sucking up rather than true merit.

The story revolves around Ethan Stark, who begins the series as a squad seageant in the U.S. military of the far future, where the USA remains the only military super-power on the planet. Unfortunately, as citizens kept voting down taxes, the military ends up getting funded through corporate sponsorships and reality-TV-type broadcasts of military operations. The implications of all this is dire --- esentially big business dictate where wars are fought, and the infantry is micro-managed in a way only control freaks could dream of.

Yes, this is non-right-wing military fantasy, which is great. Stark ends up by a twist of events and by his own initiative, in charge of the lunar operations and the series then turns into a series of leadership lessons, from putting the right person in charge of the right job, to being able to trust and not micro-manage a battle. Very good, if cliched plots that are yet handled with a ring of authenticity which only a former military man can manage.

While all this is going on, Hemry manages to provide some insights into historical battles, as well as drawing an analogy between the US and Athens. The character of Stark is extremely likeable, and perhaps draws heavily on the ass-kicking seageant often seen in military fiction, movies as well as books.

In an age of 1000 page novels, Hemry manages to deliver a satisfying story in 3 200 page books. You can buy them one at a time: Stark's War, Stark's Command and Stark's Crusade in paper form, or pay $30 and by all 7 pre-Lost-Fleet books in non-DRM form. Since I'm halfway through my $30 stack, I have to say I'm definitely getting my money's worth --- not heavy fiction, but great vacation reading.
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