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    Review of OLD SOLDIERS by David Weber (see his webpage)


    Baen, September 2005

    The Concordiat and the Melconian Empire have long passed the point of military victory or defeat and have locked themselves into a battle of genocide. Only one civilization will survive--peering out from the ashes of what was once a galaxy-wide federation. But although humans have stretched themselves thin, the increasing certainty that humans will lose this long battle makes them look for some alternative--and the idea of planting new colonies far from either the Concordiat or the Empire comes up--operation Seed Corn.

    A pair of obsolete Bolos, a small fleet, and the transport ships of a new colony set off for a new world--somewhere in space. But Melcornia has calculated that the humans will try such a ploy and an Empire fleet discovers the colony task force--and attempts to destroy it. Destroying a Bolo, though, is harder than it looks--and a Bolo looks hard. The Bolo is a monster on land, but even in space, its weapons are as powerful as anything mounted on a cruiser.

    Their warships destroyed, a Melcornian troopship tracks the colony transports to their new world and attacks. Their plan should have worked--but once again, it's impossible to overestimate the power of a Bolo.

    Author David Weber (see more reviews of novels by Weber) approaches Bolo warfare with the same mathmatical precision he uses in his Honor Harrington series. Throw weights, percentage of projectiles that self-destruct, damage from electro-magnetic impulse, and the rest are all calculated and displayed for the reader's benefit. Also as with the Honor Harrington series, a clever female soldier (Captain Maneka Trevor in this case) is able to outthink and outplan her enemies to a hopeless degree (although was it really necessary--she had a Bolo)?

    Weber makes OLD SOLDIERS work by making the Melcornians the true protagonists. Like Lucifer in Paradise Lost, the Melcornians know that they have no chance of victory. The Bolo will simply grind them into nothingness. Still, they are resigned to doing their best, to doing what they can in hopes that some miracle may spare them--when their entire fleet, and indeed their entire race, was destroyed by the Bolos.

    On its face, OLD SOLDIERS is another paen to mass murder--certainly the apparent protagonists never really think about the deaths they're inflicting. But beneath the surface, Weber has created a strong anti-war statement. The Melcornians and humans are essentially indistinguishable--both facing destruction at the hands of an enemy they can't understand. Both pursue honor, duty, and believe that they are waging an essentially defensive war. By the end, only a truly disturbed reader will want to hear about another mass of death.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 4/27/06

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