David Drake, who edited this collection, is the author of the Hammer's Slammers series which is an intelligent and thoughtful sequence of Novels following a company of mercenaries in the far future. Here he has selected some of the best SF sories with a military theme. But be assured there is nothing gung ho here. Instead you are given insights into war and combat, and also human nature. These are stories of the highest quality and well worth reading. Highly recommended!
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Space Infantry, by Drake, Waugh, and Greenberg7 Feb. 2010
Philipp M. Reichold
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Space Infantry is a Military Science Fiction anthology edited by Drave Drake, Charles G. Waugh and Martin Greenberg. It contains stories by a dozen authors spanning 3 decades. In order of appearance they are:
"The Rocketeers Have Shaggy Ears," by Keith Bennett; "His Truth Goes Marching On," by Jerry Pournelle; "But as a Soldier, For His Country," by Stephen Goldin; "
Soldier Boy," by Michael Shaara; "Code-Name Feirefitz," by David Drake; "The Foxholes of Mars," by Fritz Lieber;
"Conqueror," by Larry Eisenberg; "Warrior," by Gordon R. Dickson; "Message to an Alien," by Keith Laumer;
". . . Not a Prison Make," by Joseph P. Martino; "The Hero," by George R. R. Martin, and "End Game," by Joe Haldeman.
Of the lot, Joe Haldeman, Gordon R. Dickson, Jerry Purnelle and Fritz Leiber are Hugo Award winners, though not for these stories. Mr. Drake and Mr. Haldeman served in Viet Nam. Their experiences color and inform their stories. Mr. Drake once said that his Hammers Slammers stories were partly therapy. Though clumped together as "Space Infantry," these stories run a wide gamut in attitude and outlook, and they need not strictly speaking be about Infantryman at all. Anyone simply seeking simple action adventure, bang-bang-your-dead, stories may be disappointed. There is so much more here than that. Anyone looking for high quality writing should read these stories. They stand out as excellent severally and separately. The book is essential to anyone with more than a superficial interest in Military Science Fiction-- especially anyone interested in the crafting or the history of Military Sci Fi.
"The Rocketeers Have Shaggy Ears" Mr. Bennett's story is not so much about ground sloggers as downed rocketeers who get the job done regardless of any obstacles and who coincidentally save their corps from absorption or disbandment. The basis for the title, according to Drake, is a song-- "The Mountaineeers Have Hairy Ears," whose lyrics I'll not reproduce here, and which carries the same emotional load of the Viet Nam Era, "don't mean nothin" in the context of having just had one's eye shot out.
Mr. Drake was half a generation removed from Rocketeers, as I am from Drake's Slammers. In the context of today's milieu, the story is shockingly militaristic and imperialistic, much reflective of the attitude of the times in which it was written, 1950. No consideration is given to the real estate and no quarter to the natives. AS I said, the these admitted "Sons of bi-- er, Space" get the job done. There is of course a problem with some stories written in the 1950's. The idiom is changed. Readers of today may find it difficult to relate to.
"His Truth Goes Marching On" Dr. Pounelle is a Political Scientist and this story is as much a poli-sci treatise as it is a work of military science fiction. It is of course set in the Falkenberg's Legion universe before the collapse of the Co-Dominion and the ascension of Lysander to the Spartan throne, just prior to Ace Barton and Peter Owensford signing up with Colonel Falkenberg. Don't get me wrong, there's enough army life and gun play and slogging through mud for any one's taste. There's also betrayal and a nuke.The story is well worth the read for anyone with a brain. But you won't know the truth till you read that last couple of paragraphs.
"But as a Soldier, For His Country," Quoth the author, "It's a young man's story, venting frustration at the futility and lunacy of war." It grew into the novel, The Eternity Brigade. I'm one of those people made uncomfortable by this story. But guess what-- the purpose of good writing is not to make the reader feel good. Imagine the sheer unpleasantness and daily grind of war. Then imagine the worst parts. Imagine dying in battle. Then imagine being resurrected and even copied countless times for an age, till finally you meet yourself in battle. A well written reductio ad absurdum.
"Soldier Boy" Michael Shaara won the Pulitzer Prize for The Killer Angels, a novel about the Battle of Gettysburg. "Soldier Boy" was also made into a novel; it tells the story of the lone soldier, at a number of disadvantages, that must come to grips with a superior opponent through his native intelligence and leadership skills. It's a well crafted story about a young man coming into his own. The antagonist is remarkable.
"Code-Name Feirefitz" Despite being in law school, David Drake was drafted to serve in Viet Nam. He eventually became a member of a Battalion Information Center with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. His experiences there form the basis of his Hammer's Slammers stories. The prime movers in "Code Name Feirefitz" are not the highly capable Captain Esa Mboya or his Golf Company Slammers, but two civilans. Their conflict is key to Mboya's own conflict between duty and conscience. The story contrasts the grittiness and hardness of the soldiers as they set about doing their duty with the composure and quiet persistence of Esa's brother Juma as he does his. Their dedication contrasts with the desperate selfishness of ben Khedda as he seeks to sacrifice anyone to survive. The faith of Jooma plays against that of the Kaid who will risk anything to save his people, and both stand out against the faithlessness of ben Khedda.
"The Foxholes of Mars" Fritz Leiber has won numerous awards-- one of the great masters of Science Fiction. Leiber's opening imagery and setting creation is masterful. Leiber's prose is deep and lush with layers of meaning. War is just the setting for a deep and not terrible pleasnt look deep into a man's soul-- the soul of a budding demagouge. I find no indication that this story won Hugo or Nebula. It should have. It's shocking that an anthology containing this story should be available for a penny. This story in and of itself is priceless.
"Conqueror" Eisenber crafts his story well, creating a believable setting and a sympathetic protagonist in a story that starts out being a story about the lone foot slogger a long way from home and in need of human contact, validation of his own humanity. Ends up as a story about successful psy-ops and asymmetric warfare against an occupying force.
"Warrior" The first Gordon Dickson I read was the short story "Soldier Ask Not" in The Hugo Winners. Warrior is a side piece to his Childe Cycle stories, about the Dorsai general Ian Graeme. It is included in the anthology Lost Dorsai.
Though the action of the story takes place far from the battlefields of the Splinter worlds, it is full of strategy, including the principle of calculated risk, and tactics. (Including Tactics of Mistake-- this is a Graeme we're talking about.) It portrays Graeme as the Dorsai archetype-- not only the consummate soldier, but a man who would cross all of Hell and half of New York City to pay a debt for good or ill. And all the more so to exact justice for his soldiers. Dickson's prose can be a little pompous and overbearing-- his treatment of villains a little dismissive, mere stick figures lacking depth. But then he wants Graeme to be overpowering-- to his adversaries, to the helpless bystander cops, and to the reader.
"Message to an Alien" Keith Laumer is a Nebula Award writer who is probably undervalued today. His Retief stories are based on his experiecnes as a military attache in Burma. His Bolo stories were part of the inspiration for Drake's Slammers. This story is about the lone and disgraced soldier who was turned out for being righter than his superiorsthe civillian authorities could ever admit. He acts alone again and totally without anyone else's support to nip an invasion in the bud and stop a war. Laumer's disdain those with authority but lacking the sense to use it shows through. Dalton's mastery of the situation, the authorities, and of the invaders is a pleasure to read.
". . . Not a Prison Make" Martino's novelette is based on the unique premise of guerrilla warfare carried out by low technology aborigines. He builds the story thoroughly, exploring the occupying forces attempts to mount an affect defence. The key is to force to the negotiating table people who have no interest in negotiations. The solution is unique to he situation, and the resolution acceptable to all.
"The Hero" The United States has reached the point in its decadence/decay where it is sometimes more convenient to ignore its veterans and treat them with disdain then to give them the consideration and rewards they deserve. And so it is in "The Hero." Kagan serves honorably and well. When his term of enlistment is up, he demands his desserts, and his superiors balk. Can't conceive of him going to Earth. George R. R. Martin uses overstatement to drive home his point, contrasting the soldier with his bosses. In the end, it's clear that they are as dishonorable as he is honorable, as undeserving of his service as anyone could be.
"End Game" Joe Haldeman won an award for The Forever War. In the End Game, we find out what it was all for. Time has past. A lot of time has past, and Man is more like the Taurans than veterans like Marygay and William. There's a place for people like them called Middle Finger, heh heh. Anyone familiar with The Forever War knows Haldeman is a great writer, that he despises the stupidity and waste of war, and that he makes his case very well. --Mike Reichold
A Solid Collection21 Sept. 2014
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a basic collection of some dozen science fiction stories focused primarily on infantry--the foot soldier who when all is said and done must actually go INTO the enemy's territory and win the battle once and for all. The "boots on the ground" as it were.
At least that's how it's billed. In reality I found the stories to range all over the map, with about half actually focused on the infantry themselves and the rest touching on them in some fashion. The best are probably "...Not a Prison Make" and "The Rocketeers Have Shaggy Ears", though I pretty much enjoyed reading them all and didn't skip any as sometimes happens in collection. I particularly enjoyed "Soldier Boy' since the bulk of it was written from the alien's perspective....very different and shows how not every race would approach warfare the same way.
This is one in a series of books with a similar military science fiction focus but it stands well on its own. Recommended for any fan of military science fiction and/or fans of short science fiction stories.