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Military SF

After all, it should be clear that no one fights purely for money; that anyone who does is probably not worth hiring. As Montesquieu put it, "A rational army would run away." To stand on the firing parapet and expose yourself to danger; to stand and fight a thousand miles from home when you're all alone and outnumbered and probably beaten; to stand fast over the body of Leonidas the King; to be rearguard at Kunu-ri; to stand and be still to the Birkenhead drill; these are not rational acts.

They are often merely necessary.

-- Jerry Pournelle, in the foreword to Hammer's Slammers

Such acts will continue to be necessary as long as men have to fight to defend their homes and lives. And science fiction, with its advanced technology and alien worlds, provides fertile ground for fictional warfare. Thus you can get military science fiction: SF with a military theme, but considerably more sophisticated than space opera. I read a lot of military SF, for roughly the same reasons I like the Hornblower saga: good drama requires conflict, and war is a very good place to find conflicts. Right now, most of my military-SF collection comes from just a few authors.

Hammer's Slammers

David Drake is a Vietnam veteran who chose writing as his career after he returned home. His main claim to fame is a collection of extremely high-powered military-SF stories about a regiment of mercenary soldiers called Hammer's Slammers. Unfortunately, you have to be careful when buying the Slammers books because Drake's publisher has a disturbing habit of re-issuing the same book every few years, under the same or a different title, with mostly the same stories and one or two new ones.

  • HAMMER'S SLAMMERS
    Author: Drake, David
    Copyright:1987
    Publisher: Baen
    ISBN: 0-671-65632-5
    Eight short stories about the mercenary armored regiment called Hammer's Slammers. VERY good military fiction.
  • HAMMER'S SLAMMERS: AT ANY PRICE
    Author: Drake, David
    Copyright:1985
    Publisher: Baen
    ISBN: 0-671-55978-8
    The second Hammer's Slammers book, this one contains one fairly long novella, an 'interlude' about Slammers interrogation teams, and a short story. In the title novella, a human colony has hired the Slammers to support them in a war against the native sapients, a race called the Molts who are capable of teleporting. The war is going very badly for the humans, though. When a local army unit tries to massacre a cave-full of Molt infants, two Slammers stop them -- permanently. They are promptly sentenced to death by court-martial, but are spared to act as bodyguards for the human army's new commander, General Radescu. Radescu is a no-nonsense commander who intends to do what he was ordered to do: end the war against the Molts at any price. And if that price includes sparing the murderer mercenaries so they can help him, well, so be it.
  • HAMMER'S SLAMMERS: ROLLING HOT
    Author: Drake, David
    Copyright:1989
    Publisher: Baen
    ISBN: 0-671-69837-0

  • HAMMER'S SLAMMERS: THE WARRIOR
    Author: Drake, David
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: Baen Books
    ISBN: 0-671-72058-9

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John Hemry: a rising star

John Hemry is a recent addition to the military-SF scene. So far he's written two SF trilogies, each orbiting around a different main character. One is the "Stark" serie, about a career sergeant who unexpectedly finds himself leading a mutiny. The second one stars (if you can believe it) a military lawyer.

  • STARK'S WAR
    Author: Hemry, John
    Copyright:2000
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN: 0-441-00715-5

  • STARK'S COMMAND
    Author: Hemry, John
    Copyright:2001
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN: 0-441-00822-4

  • STARK'S CRUSADE
    Author: Hemry, John
    Copyright:2002
    Publisher: Ace
    ISBN: 0-441-00915-8

  • A JUST DETERMINATION
    Author: Hemry, John
    Copyright:2003
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN: 0-441-01052-0
    A very strange sort of "military SF." The first half is shipboard "officer in training" story: Ensign Paul Sinclair is straight out of the Academy, assigned to the USS Michaelson on patrol in the farther reaches of the Solar System, and we follow him as he starts to learn his way around. Because he has some legal training, Sinclair is assigned as the ship's Legal Officer. This becomes abruptly very important when the Michaelson's captain, Paul Wakeman, fires on a Chinese ship that turns out to be unarmed. The entire second half of the book is a detailed account of Wakeman's court-martial and Ensign Sinclair's reaction to it. There's little doubt that Wakeman made a mistake ... but does he really deserve the treatment he's getting from his superiors?

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Other Military SF

Miscellaneous military SF, by a variety of authors.

  • BUG WARS, THE
    Author: Asprin, Robert
    Copyright:1979
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN: 0-441-07373-5
    His name is Rahm, a Commander of the Tzen, a race of warrior lizards involved in a brutal war of extermination against the gigantic insectoids that make up the Coalition of Insects. And this book is the story of three operations that he leads, each more difficult than the last. First comes a mission of survival after his team is literally abandoned on an Enemy-held planet. Second, he and his team must survive on an Ant-held world while they study the Ants and seek the best ways to destroy them. Finally, he leads a major strike force in the operation to destroy the Ants. A short and pretty well-written book, in which the fact that all the main characters including the first-person narrator are humanoid lizards is almost ignored except when it's directly relevant... and then, it's a factor only because it's directly relevant.
  • EAGLE AGAINST THE STARS
    Author: White, Steve
    Copyright:2000
    Publisher: Baen Books
    ISBN: 0-671-57846-4

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