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Ranks of Bronze [Mass Market Paperback]

4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Aug 2001
The guilds of star-travelling merchants had strict rules to prevent their technology from falling into the hands of the natives of planets they were exploiting: military operations had to be carried out with weaponry no more complex than swords and bows. That was no handicap to the merchant princes, who came to Earth for soldiers and returned to the stars with the best the planet had to offer: the legionaries of the Roman Empire!

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Baen Books; Reprint edition (1 Aug 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671318330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671318338
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 11.3 x 17.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,610,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Gaius Vibulenus wore a white horsehair crest to mark him as a tribune. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical armies in a SciFi setting 23 Aug 2006
By mbogle VINE VOICE
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have just finished rereading this book and found it as enjoyable the second time around. The premise that an advanced alien empire has a number of "trade guilds" which solve their problems militarily within the limits of the civilization which they deal is novel and a clever angle.

A roman army is purchased from earth after its defeat by a trade guild looking for soldiers to be used in 'negotiations' with cultures of a similar level of military.

The author does a very good job of describing the military positioning and battles between the Roman legion and their various opponents. At the same time you are shown the aliens view of the troops as nothing more than 'useful' assets to be used when needed.

A good book to read, if you enjoy military sci-fi, with a completely new idea at its heart.

I also agree with another poster that the new cover does nothing for this book. I have the older version which actually made me want to buy the book off the shelf!!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fast, action -packed ,fighting fantasy . 20 Dec 2001
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I first read this book some years ago and it stuck in my mind.The premise is great:that defeated Roman soldiers are taken to fight for 'a trading guild of the Federation' on planets where the technology of war is limited.They are valuable slaves kept young by advanced technology and develop into an army of veterans, using Roman organisation and discipline against alien barbarians.I loved the military detail and the neatness of the plot. It is a much classier book than the cover suggests.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Mix of Combat, Science Fiction, and History 23 July 2002
By celes_knight - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Although I've been a fan of military science fiction books for a while, this was my first introduction of David Drake. I'm glad to say that I wasn't disappointed. Other people have already done a great job of covering the plot, so I won't bore you by going over it again. However, I would like to point out that this book is not a collection of short stories. The book has several independent military campaigns in it, but they involve the same people and are interconnected. Also, while this book was written several years ago (mid-80's, I think), it doesn't feel dated they way many books from that era do.
The characters have a lot of dimension to them and they react in very human ways to the situations that they face. They also grow over the course of the book. I often found myself wondering how I would react if I was in their place.
Unfortunately, there is nothing in this book that you can point at and think "Wow, everyone should read this book!" There really are no grand or unique ideas presented; however, if you're looking to kill some time, this is a fine book to pick up. This would also be a good book to get someone interested in the Roman Empire, military fiction, or science fiction. Cheers!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Romans among the stars. 17 July 2000
By Jeff Cordell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I've always believed that some of David Drake's best works are his novels mixing science fiction and the Roman Empire. Having been a Roman history buff for as long as I can remember one could argue that I'm rather biased, but in my opinion Ranks of Bronze rates up there with another of his Roman novel's, Birds of Prey. Ranks of Bronze takes it's inspiration from an actual battle that occurred in the year 53 B.C. Marcus Crassus - one of the three members of the first triumvite along with Ceaser and Pompey - led a Roman army into Parthia ( modern Iran ) to take care of the Parthian empire once and for all. Instead his army was defeated and Crassus was killed. What we do know is that some ten thousand legionaires survived and were either sold into slavery to owners as far away as China and India or the Parthians put them to work as slave soldiers setteling frontier land within the Pathian Empire,just like the British did in Austraila. David Drake has the survivors being sold to aliens - in disguise - who work for a star spanning commercial league. Rather like the organization that was attacking Naboo in The Phanthom Menace. The League isn't allowed to use modern weaponry against primitives who refuse to deal with them. I gather the rules are put down by an organiztion similar to our U.N. So in order to stay out of trouble the aliens buy the Roman legionaries and put them to work fighting their wars. The clincher is that excluding total destruction of the brain the aliens can ressurect the dead soldiers, even if they are decapitated. The main character is a young tribune who eventually rises to command of the legion and the realization that their masters aren't Human. The battles are graphic, but show some serious research on Drake's part. The book gives a nod to the Human ability to overcome obstacles by brain power and nothing else. It's also an intersting contrast of Iron Age soldiers living among advanced technology. I don't want to spoil the ending, but suffice to say you will be kept on the edge of your seat.To paraphrase the previous review, Don't mess with the Romans.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From one of Drake's fans 26 Feb 2006
By Mechaninja - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Consider the title a disclaimer. I'm the guy that started the yahoo group that is referenced on his web site. Ok? But I wanted to reply to a couple of the issues raised in other reviews.

How do you define military sci-fi if taking one of the greatest war machines of the historical era and transplanting it into a science fiction universe does not qualify? This is a story about a group of Roman soldiers, and the tribune who ends up commanding them as they travel through the galaxy, serving unworthy masters, and what they do about it. Statements suggesting that it is a set of loosely connected stories are made by people who haven't read the book.

Drake considers this one of his more artistically successful stories, and suggests that it sold well too. Jim Baen wanted a sequel so much that he got Drake to agree to one of those shared universe anthologies, and the sequel is more fun that it is legal to have in most states. Luckily, I live in Nevada, where the only thing that is illegal is being a non-smoker.

If you like military science fiction, by a man who has been on the sharp end and mostly came back to tell us about it, get to know Drake.

As for space opera? Try his Leary/Mundy books.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great early drake combat novel, from when he actually wrote original stories 17 Sep 2006
By Woofdog - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This story was published first in 1986. Readers of Drake's modern fantasy efforts, all apparently following the same plot map time and time again, should know that once upon a time, Drake could write an original storyline in a normal-length book.

The basic premise of the book is that the remainder of Crassus' defeated legion is sold as slaves to an alien trade guild who takes them into space and uses them for proxy wars on low-tech planets where an enforced convention prohibits use of high-tech people or weapons to subdue lower tech planets. The romans are deployed in set-piece battles and sieges, many of which are described in great detail in the book (in fact, i think well over half the book is battles). Aside from brain and spinal injuries, most damage and even death can be repaired - along with not aging, this makes for a legion with more battles fought and far more experience per person than any roman legion ever had on earth. The conflict in this story is the slow development of the legion's resistance to being slaves of the trade guild, and how that problem plays out. The story is told from the third-person viewpoint of a tribune in the legion.

I would comment that none of the armies faced in set-piece battles by the legion seemed to have any knowledge of formations or tactics and were less organized in that regard than the romans. Even some of the physically weaker aliens in tight controlled formations (phalanx, etc) would have presented different difficulties, but in the end the set-piece battles were hard for the romans only in terms of being outnumbered every time. The one siege did present a new complication. Drake does know his roman military tactics from this period.

I wish that drake still wrote stories like this.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sci-Fi Literature at Its Best! 6 Dec 2006
By Jeffrey Peter A. Hauck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I read author David Drakes's "Ranks of Bronze" for the first time nearly twenty years ago while an 82d Airborne Div. Soldier. Recently I purchased another copy and thumbed through it again. Drake is one of my favorite Sci-Fi authors (Hammer's Slammers, et. al.) and in my humble opinion has successfully mastered the art of simple good old fashioned storytelling.

Ranks of Bronze begins as a story where a defeated Legion of Roman Legionnaires (ostensibly one of Crassus' lost legions in the Battle of Carrhae vs. the Parthians) was captured and sold to a space alien trading guild to be used to conquor, as per the guidlines of the alien's own treaties and rules of conquest, peoples (creatures) inhabiting planets that had roughly the same level of technology as the mercenaries employed.

The aliens employ a system of diplomacy similar to Star Trek's "prime directive" where they cannot invade or conquor with their high level of technology but can (and do) employ mercenaries to achieve the desired results by way of proxy.

In the end the Legionnaires, after surviving countless surface invasions of countless planets, manage to wrest control of their transport ship from their alien captors. The Legionnaires, who have only held on to the hope that one day they would return to their home, demand passage to Earth.

The twist in the end is that however, they return to an Earth a millennium older then when they left.

A fascinating and good Sci-Fi read. I recommend it for a lazy afternoon of reading at five stars!

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