Category Archives: Novels

Review of David Drake’s “Redliners”

Recently I had decided to pick up and read David Drake’s collection of military science fiction short stories called “Hammer’s Slammers.”  I was a bit surprised by just how evocative it was of many of the central concepts of BattleTech universe writ large.  We aren’t any better in the future than we are now.  We still have unethical wars.  We hold onto our religious and ethnic identities and use those to exclude and attack others.  We still have these “us versus them,” mentalities.   Technology has not led to morality.

Beleaguered Soldiers on a Far-Flung Colony

Beleaguered Soldiers on a Far-Flung Colony

There are a bunch of other similar things, like similar weapons, similar concepts of mercenaries, and more — and I was so taken aback by this pre-BattleTech story, that I wrote a review on it here.  Having read that, I decided to eventually take on another military science fiction book as well and review it for you.  Two weeks ago I was shopping at a Books-a-Million superstore when I came across “Redliners.”  It was recently re-released in this prestige format as part of the 20 year anniversary of the novel.  On the cover is David Drake talking about how this is his best work, to his mind, and the one that changed him the most after writing it.

Well that sounded compelling.  So I picked it up and started reading.

Now as I have mentioned before, I’m very comfortable with David Drake.  I’ve read a few short stories, and this is my 6th book by him.  He’s not an author I follow religiously, but he’s good at what he does and I respect him for it.  He was at a major school for studying Law when he was drafted in the 60s, and sent to work with tanks in Cambodia for two years, and then returned.  He always found it difficult to re-assimilate into life.  And this novel follows a similar track.

In a future war by a star-spanning human empire, a high reputation striker force does some bad stuff and loses a lot of people on the front line of a war against some aliens.  They have crossed the red line.  But instead of them being sent home to keep them quiet, the leader of the Empire decides to try something new.  They are sent to escort a group of colonists to a hostile but potentially wealthy colony world.  And they are pushed together and forged by fire.  (I’m trying to keep this relatively spoiler-free).

Now the book itself has a lot of the typical military science-fiction accoutrements.  Death.  Weapons.  Battles.  And the style of Drake is compelling.  It’s powerful and evocative.  And while it’s not my favorite book in the genre by any means, I get where Drake is coming from.  The book is worth the reading.

I’ve always wondered what would happen if David Drake wrote a BattleTech story.  Would it feel like a conventional one?  Would it be different?  Would he continue down that path or hew something else?  He has written in shared worlds before.  He is a big fan of the Cthulhu Mythos and has written stuff there.  So you never know.

Are you familiar with “Redliners?”  Have you read it?  What did you think?

Review of “Hammer’s Slammers”

Slamming that Hammer

Well I felt it was time.  See, one of my passions in life is to read the books and works that helps to make something exist.  Take Dungeons and Dragons as a good example.  In his famous Appendix N at the end of the first Dungeon Master’s Guide, Gary Gygax listed a bunch of writers and works that were influential to the game, and as launching off points for campaigns.  And slowly and surely, I’ve been reading Appendix N stories and writers.  I enjoy reading pre-D&D writers that had an influence on that game. And I do this with a lot of stuff, from epic sagas from other cultures to forgotten gems that few appreciate.

And there’s where my decision to read Hammer’s Slammers, by David Drake came from.  Published in 1979 and featuring an eponymous mercenary tank unit in the future of science fiction, it seems like a potentially interesting synergy with BattleTech.  The book is a collection of short stories, and thus easier to read for those that are involved with doing stuff.  So let’s read this thing!

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BattleCorps Author Interview: Cody Ouellette


 The canon of official BattleTech continues to grow, and in my endless quest to get to know the people who are shaping what is to come, and what has already passed, I was able to catch the ear of BattleCorps author Cody Ouellette just long enough to get him to answer a few questions for me about his personal BattleTech journey and about his dreams to write BattleTech fiction.

Here is what Cody had to say:

Dave:  What was your first experience with the BattleTech universe?

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The Living Legends Question

Some legends are not as they appear

I recently ran a campaign through 3058 that included the module Living Legends.  My personal mercenary unit had already accepted a contract to work for the Draconis Combine in anti-Clan efforts in the vicinity where the Manassas appeared.  I did a little research and found this adventure was slated for that area and time frame.  I bought it, and ran it with some modifications.

For those who may not be aware, this book chronicles a WarShip, the Manassas, from the original Kerensky fleet with an experimental modified jump engine that can jump an extra ten light years.  It misjumps and leaps forward in time almost 300 years, into 3058.  By the end of the adventure, this wonder of technology is destroyed.

One of the main concerns many have with Living Legends is that the time-travel component just doesn’t have the ring of the authentic BattleTech universe.  One of the things I love about it is the feel of the universe.  We are all alone out here.  And things like time travel aren’t normally possible.  And yet here we find a pristine ship from the Star League Defense Force on the backdoor.

Obviously, this adventure opens up other questions.  Can a ship misjump backwards in time?  Can the 40 light-year K-F drive be replicated?  Can other misjumps from history be scheduled to arrive any moment?

What do you do with Living Legends?  Do you run it?  Do you modify it?  Does it exist in your personal BattleTech campaigns and universe?

In a Big Country…

I guess it’s similar to the novel Far Country, where a misjump sends folks to a planet far away from humanity that has intelligent birdlike aliens running around.  Do you add alien life to your campaigns?  What about misjumps so far away as to be beyond known space entirely?  Do you use the planet of Kaetetôã in your campaign?

It seems like we have similar questions.  To what degree do these examples of out-of-flavor aspects of BattleTech populate your own universe?  Do you use them for inspiration?  Pretend they never happened?  Modify them somewhere?  What do you do with them?

Retrospective Look at Lost Destiny

Book Three of the Blood of Kerensky Trilogy by Michael A. Stackpole

Cover of 1995 reprint of Lost Destiny

Little Johnny Acolyte’s drill sergeant told him there would be days where a yellow Wolfhound on fire would come a-stompin’.


Lost Destiny concludes the Blood of Kerensky Trilogy, which was preceded by the rather good Blood Legacy by Michael A. Stackpole. We’ll be concluding our retrospective look at Lost Destiny as part of a continuing series of articles (starting with Lethal Heritage and Blood Legacy) to look back at the 25th anniversary of the Blood of Kerensky Trilogy.

BASIC PLOTLINE

In the aftermath of the events detailed in Blood Legacy, Lost Destiny picks up the ball and starts to run with it at a breathless pace. With the events of Kai Allard-Liao being stuck behind enemy lines, to dealing with the aftermath of the Battle of Luthien, to the crazy one-on-many battles that Phelan Wolf goes through to earn a Bloodname, to a daring raid done behind enemy lines, to the final battle of ComStar vs the Clans. Although Blood Legacy had a lot of action, with most of the political stuff done in that book gives Stackpole a chance to get into some really hot ‘Mech battles. All the plotlines come together rather satisfactorily, but leaves enough of a hunger to find out what’s next.

CHARACTERS

In contrast to Blood Legacy, the characters in Lost Destiny are starting to trust in themselves and their fellow warriors, and in the case of Phelan he really starts to come into his own as a Clan warrior, besting many obstacles that are thrown their way. They’ve taken what they’ve learned and start to use that knowledge as a weapon, and leading to some interesting situations. Although the main focus of the book is split between Phelan, Victor, Kai, and Foct, you get a really interesting mix of points of view and how these characters respond to the ongoing changes. Along with their confidence, you can’t help but to cheer on these characters on their adventures, despite the sometimes terrible odds that they face.

IMPACT OF THE BOOK ON THE BATTLETECH UNIVERSE

This book was important because, for the first time, you see Inner Sphere nations start to come together to fight the larger threat that is the Clans. ComStar surprisingly also is a fascinating addition, as some of the secrets of this order are finally revealed. You also see that, yes, the Clans are extremely deadly foes, but they can be defeated and are not invincible. At the end of the book you have a very uneasy set of affairs, but a relative peace. With the Clans being a now-permanent fixture within the Inner Sphere, everything that had gone on before had been thrown out the airlock and a new destiny for all those in the universe to be charted.

CONCLUSION

With the political groundwork already laid down in the previous novel, the attention to the battles, and the ongoing character development, Lost Destiny is my personal favorite in the trilogy. Highly recommended reading for all BattleTech fans!

Retrospective Look at Blood Legacy

Book Two of the Blood of Kerensky Trilogy by Michael A. Stackpole

After the conclusion of “Lethal Heritage” you’re left in a bind. Michael A. Stackpole left us at the end of that book with a heck of a shock. We’ll continue exploring Blood Legacy as part of a continuing series of articles (starting with this one) to look back at the 25th anniversary of the Blood of Kerensky Trilogy.

Cover of 1995 reprint of Blood Legacy

That dude is going to have a problem explaining that autocannon scratch to his CO.

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BattleCorps Author Interview: Patrick Tomlinson

BattleCorps Logo

BattleTech is a game and a universe that is driven by its lore. Many of us who love the game and its stories have a deep connection because of the novels and story-rich sourcebooks and supplements that have been published over the years.

While it’s been a few years since any of us have seen BattleTech or MechWarrior novels on a book store shelf, BattleCorps has continued the effort to provide us with the best in a continually growing lexicon of official BattleTech lore, continuing the work that the dozens of novels started.

We were able to track down Patrick Tomlinson, one of the authors who have recently contributed to the body of works found at BattleCorps. Below is what he had to say about BattleTech, MechWarrior Online, writing, and anything else he wanted to mention.

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BattleCorps Author Interview: Jennifer Brozek

BattleCorps Logo

The BattleTech universe has a rich history, full of lore. Developed not only by the sourcebooks and supplements for the game, the story of BattleTech has played out in novels for well over twenty years.

Today, many years after the last novel to be published has disappeared from book store shelves, authors continue to grow, shape, and expand the BattleTech universe through BattleCorps. Dedicated to expanding the body of literature available to fans, BattleCorps has been publishing short stories, compilation volumes, and even a few full-length novels since 2002.

We recently caught up with BattleCorps author Jennifer Brozek and were able to ask her some questions about her writing, her BattleTech story, and her experience as a fan of BattleTech and MechWarrior.

Dave: What was your first experience with the BattleTech universe?

JB: It was years ago when I discovered one of the BattleTech novels. I don’t remember which one now because I was such a voracious reader at the time. I remember loving the big stompy robots. They reminded me so much of Robotech—a cartoon I was a big fan of.

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Retrospective Look at Lethal Heritage

Book One of the Blood of Kerensky Trilogy by Michael A. Stackpole

It’s hard to imagine the state of the BattleTech universe without the influence of Michael A. Stackpole’s work upon it. Back in the 90’s, my first BattleTech novel that I had picked up completely by sheer luck was indeed Stackpole’s “Lethal Heritage“. It was so good that I devoured it in a day and went back for the others in the series, and in the process started a lifelong love.

Given the influence of this series and book in particular, on the eve of its’ 25th year anniversary, it would be interesting to go back and take a quick retrospective look at the book.

Cover of 1995 reprint of Lethal Heritage

Wait, what do you mean that a Phoenix Hawk can’t take on a point of Elementals?

BASIC PLOTLINE

This book can be considered to be a good starter point into the BattleTech universe as, barring the first few pages that can cause puzzlement to a new reader into the series, starts from essentially a clean slate. Stackpole did a good job in setting up the in-universe powers that be and various key figures, giving the reader a decent foundation upon where to build from.

The book essentially starts with the stories of two scions of different realms, along with their loyal companions and another character that gives us an inside track on the main antagonists of the book. The scions fully expect that their respective differences have destined them to fight each other, but a massive invasion from technologically superior outside force, calling themselves The Clans, force them to ignore each other temporarily to combat this deadly threat.

CHARACTERS

The book revolves around several key characters, many that would have a tremendous influence on the fictional world of BattleTech for years to come, both in real life and in-universe. The main characters would revolve around Prince Victor Steiner-Davion, his cousin Phelan Kell, soldiers Kai Allard-Liao and Shin Yodama. With the exception of Shin Yodama, all of them are roughly the same age, completing their initial training as MechWarriors and being assigned to their initial service posts.

The character progression of these characters for the most part is interesting, with the plight of Phelan Kell in particular fascinating as it provides the reader with an inside-the-enemy-ranks look at these deadly foes. You do get a sense of their bewilderment at the main characters and their attempt to deal with events that are far beyond what they’ve been brought up to expect.

IMPACT OF THE BOOK ON THE BATTLETECH UNIVERSE

Although there have been some books written previously written in-universe, this was the first one that had taken a sweeping look at events happening simultaneously that had a far-reaching effect on events many years in the future. Thus, beyond providing a great starting point to the BattleTech universe, having a familiarity with the characters and events that happened in this book is key to understanding many of the following novels.

CONCLUSION

Beyond providing the foundation for many of the events in-universe, the book itself is a great science fiction romp with great descriptions of giant mecha battles and unexpected plot twists. This book is highly recommended.