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    Review of BOLO! by David Weber (see his webpage)

    Baen, January 2005

    Man's need for more power, more military might has resulted in the ultimate killing machine--the BOLO. Starting with the Abrams battle tanks of the 20th/21st centuries, BOLOs became increasingly armored, capable, and finally intelligent until they became self-aware entities--people who formed a partnership with the humans who created and ultimately controlled them. In BOLO!, author David Weber (see more reviews of SF by Weber) takes the BOLO idea originated by SF classic writer Keith Laumer (see reviews of novels by Laumer) and builds on it.

    Weber provides BOLO-based novellas, along with a detailed history of the BOLO from its 21st century origin to the ultimate BOLO XXXIII of the end-days of human civilization. Each of these pits a BOLO against powerful enemies--sometimes human, as in 'Miles to Go,' sometimes alien, as in 'With this Shield,' sometimes with themselves ('The Traitor'), and sometimes with human nature itself ('A Time to Kill').

    Weber is at his best in those stories that deal with emotion and growth. The more militaristic stories--especially 'A Time to Kill' slip into Weber's weakness--detailed statistics on how many missiles carry payloads vs. electronic warfare warheads, how many are stopped by counter-missiles, how many confused by electromagnetic pulses or target already destroyed BOLOs, etc. Where he lets himself go, concentrating on the man/machine relationship and the increasing humanization of the BOLO (even in an era where mankind itself is losing its humanity), Weber is strong indeed.

    Although BOLO! is about war, it doesn't glorify war the way so many recent Baen books do. Instead, both the BOLOs and Weber see war as a tragic failure. If you're looking for a thoughtful approach to war, a stealthy look at what it means to be human, BOLO! is a great place to start.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 1/24/06

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