on 3 November 1998
A book series should be so fast paced and unpredictable that the reader doesn't have the time to pause and work out the plot - they should be absorbed in reading and the plot should always be so unique as to give them doubt about the final outcome. The first two books in the series hooked me, but then innovation ceased and by the fourth book I was telling myself, "Go ahead and kill of Barholm and put Poplanich on the throne and get it over with, will you!" The last book was no surprise. Even the innovation of tricking the Colonists into overextending their supply lines and starving themselves into submission was dull. (For a desert-wise professional army, the Colonist sure acted stupid).
What got me the most was that technical innovation ceased. Given the resources of Center it should have blossomed. Just using the technology of the 1870s to 1890s, I was hoping to see field rockets on firing troughs like those used in the Zulu wars (and carried by mule-dogs), real Gatling guns (not the "splat guns" which offered too little firepower for their size), mountain guns, hydropneumatic recoil on artillery, bolt-action rifles (shooting 11-mm black powder cartridges, like the .45-70 Hotchkiss the USA Army tested or the tube-magazine Mauser 11-mm), iron clad monitors, heavy artillery (please lay off the 75s), sniper rifles (mentioned but not used). Then you might add in smokeless powders invented around 1886 and a deluge of other little ideas. Balloons, for example, and telegraphs.
Even the lack of innovation didn't surprise me- the authors are hyped as military experts who strive for accuracy, yet their books tend to lack technical accuracy. In one story in the Riverworld series, one of them featured a Union soldier with a fourteen shot Henry rifle (a Henry rifle has a 15 shot magazine, plus room for one in the spout). In The General series the 75's shoot 10-kilo' shells (22 pounds - more suited for 90-mm howitzers) while a typical 75-mm would actually only fire a 7-kilogram shell (15.4 lb). For a high-velocity weapon, the 75' in the book has a very short range, one that even the lack of elevation cannot wish away - elevation is just a matter of jacking the wheels up, at which point 12,000 meters would easily be achieved. The pom-pom shell fluctuates from quarter kilo' (.55 lb) to 1-pound (.45 kilograms). The Skinner's are super-barbarians shooting 15-mm rifles with far too much accuracy; the 15-mm caliber would cause severe logistics problems, reducing ammunition supplies drastically and against humans having no real advantage over .45-caliber weapons. Besides resulting in a very low rate of fire.
But, compared to the other books written by "military" experts, the beginning of the series is a fairly good read. By the end, though, it begins to get boring due to a lack of change in plot and result.
on 8 January 1999
Okay I read the other review and had to add my opinion.
I loved the series, it's from stem the stern the best series I've read this year.
The other guy had a point about how it'd be cooler if the technology had continued to advance with centers assistance (david, s.m.? can you hear us?)
But the fact is that the story is compelling, the characters well written and frankly is just a really fun read from stem to stern my biggest complaint is that the series is ended already.
I'd love to see more books, with more interesting technological advancement using centers resources. I'd like to see what popinlach and raj make in a few years...and say a colony rebellion...
but the books rocked. all of them.. the "sequel" the choson, was only about 75% as good but still worth reading...