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My first Battletech reading experience, and I'm impressed
on 2 March 2004
I came into this book knowing absolutely nothing about the Mechwarrior or Battletech universe, and I naively had my doubts about the caliber of novels in this specific genre. Maybe it's the fact that I associate Battletech with PC and console gaming, but I was afraid this was just going to be a rather simplistic novel that served little purpose beyond framing a context in which huge metallic monsters can go at each other tooth and nail. My doubts turned out to be incredibly unfounded. I found Ghost War to be a complex, surprising, challenging read that combined action, drama, and well-placed bits of humor in a finely crafted package.
I did worry that I would be at a disadvantage here, not having read any of the earlier Battletech novels, but this first entry in the Mechwarrior: Dark Age series may well have posed fewer problems for me than for many of the Battletech gurus out there. Knowing nothing of the earlier history, I had no worries or questions about changes that had taken place in the Battletech universe during the preceding and apparently murky Golden Age of Peace spoken of here from the vantage point of 3132-3133. Much of that earlier history would seem to be minimized, in fact, because the computer network basically holding the Republic together over "the missing years" has now been taken out by unknown offenders, doing much to isolate the individual planets. With interplanetary communication greatly reduced, society's unsavory forces begin to climb back out of the shadows. Racial and cultural tensions increase, and greedy men seize the opportunity to play their little games of power. With internecine conflict simmering on a number of planets, the Republic finds its golden era of peace greatly threatened from within.
Fortunately, the Republic has certain individuals trained to observe, report, and work to forestall messy new conflicts in its sphere of influence. Special operatives dubbed Ghosts can be sent to infiltrate questionable planet-based organizations and work to ferret out the identities of the true bad guys out there, and the hero of this novel is one of the best. The story actually threw me for a bit of a loop about one hundred pages into it. I would like to say that Ghost War kept me guessing, but in all honesty I was so unprepared for what happened that I wasn't aware I should have been guessing in the first place. Battletech and Mechwarrior veterans are far too knowledgeable to fall for the plot device that zinged me, I imagine, but I did indeed get zinged. For this reason, I will refrain from really going into any detail about the plot.
I have sort of looked down upon series books of this type in the past (it's shameful, I know), but I vow to change my attitude from this point on. Ghost War is an intricate, carefully woven story that keeps the reader on his toes until the very end. My first Battletech novel will not be my last, and I can only hope that other Battletech authors can rival the talent of Michael A. Stackpole.