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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 September 2010
This marvellous science-fiction adventure is set in Pournelle and Niven's "Future History" series, and the story takes place at about the same time as "The Mote in God's Eye" which is probably the best SF "First Contact" story of all time.

It is early in the fourth millennium. Mankind had reached the stars in the 21st century, but at the end of this century Earth was devastated by a war between the great powers. A colony world called Sparta founded the first "Empire of Man" which kept the peace for five hundred years, but then several worlds tried to break away, and an interstellar war broke out, which devastated most of the worlds of human space.

Prince Samual's world, where the story begin, was blasted back to a renaissance level of culture and by the time the Empire made contact again in 3013, just before the book starts, they've made it back to about the level of technology Earth had in the early 20th century. The planet Makassar, a few light years away, was even worse hit, and is struggling to maintain even a medieval level of culture and technology. Sparta and the Empire's home worlds also suffered, but after the war finally spluttered out a hundred years ago, the Second Empire has been proclaimed and Sparta is gradually re-establishing control of human space.

The Second Empire are grimly determined to do whatever is necessary to make sure that nobody gets a chance to launch another interstellar war.

The hero of the book is Colonel, or rather former Colonel, Nathan McKinnie, who had been the commander of the best regiment in the army of the former state of Orleans - until an Imperial vessel allied to the rival nation of Haven blew his soldiers to bits. The Empire needs a world government to work through in order to annex Prince Samual's World, and the easiest way to get one is to help King David of Haven conquer the planet.

What the Empire doesn't realise is that King David and certain of his ministers know they are being used as puppets and are grimly determined to keep as much independence for the planet as they can.

As a former opponent of Haven, Nathan McKinnie is astonished to get a job offer from one of the most sinister figures in King David's government. If Prince Samual's world can build a spaceship before being taken into the Empire, the planet will keep far more independence and privileges. As someone says in the book, "we can make them take us as subjects, not slaves."

Prince Samual's world is maddeningly close to the level of technology at which they might be able to do this - but not quite there. The nearest place where they might be able to get information on how to build one, is a few light years away - in an old First Empire library, on the planet Makassar. It may be possible for our heroes to hitch a lift to Makassar on a passing trading ship, but they'd better hurry, as it sounds like the last remnants of even a feudal civilisation on Makassar are about to be over-run by thousands of barbarians ...

If you have enjoyed any of the other books in the "Future History" series like "The mote in God's Eye" or its' sequels, "The Gripping Hand" and "Outies," you will love this book.
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on 16 May 2014
Old, but still very, very readable.
A good well written sci-fi adventure by one of the best in the field. Most people tend to think of the big technically awesome
stories when you think of Jerry Pournelle, especially those written with other authors such as Larry Nivem etc but I prefer his shorter more character driven books with almost traditional story lines & heroes. Janissaries has always been a favourite of mine, a great
pity they stopped after three books without any conclusion to the series.
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on 11 April 2016
This is an 'old' book, from an author I enjoy. Jerry Pournelle not only has a strong awareness of 'small unit' combat, but features strong well drawn characters. Sadly, so many of his older books are no longer readily available, so I was very happy to obtain this
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on 25 January 2013
I remembered this from Analog - I enjoyed it all those years ago and I wasn't disappointed in the extended version!
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on 28 November 2015
If you like Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium universe, you will like this book.
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