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3.6 out of 5 stars
Andromeda's Fall (Legion of the Damned Prequel 1)
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 18 December 2014
Andromeda's Fall (2012) is the first of a new trilogy from William Dietz that takes place before his Legion of the Damned series.

I rather liked the book, although perhaps not as much as the first ones in the original series, with Legion of the Damned remaining my all-time favourite from this author. The reason for this is simple, subjective, and perhaps also a bit unfair. The first volume had a number of original features. This one, coming in as number nine, has only a few, if any at all. As suggested in the title of this review, it is also quite predictable, unsurprising and, at times, the story may be somewhat hard to believe, meaning that I had to make a (slight) effort to remain engaged, at times.

The unoriginal pieces include the rich-girl – spoiled socialite falling from her pedestal and becoming a hunted fugitive who finds anonymity and asylum of sorts by joining the Legion under an assumed name. I found her single-handed escape exciting, although also rather hard to believe coming from someone that nothing had prepared for such a traumatising shift.

The reason for this is a rather bloody coup that begins with the Emperor’s assassination and his replacement with his over-ambitious, tyrannical and paranoid sister. The coup itself is rather well-told. So are some of its sequels such as the night raid of the mansion of the Carlettos. The Empress’ ruthless purge of just about anyone formally associated with her brother, is harder to believe with some three thousand influential people needing to be assassinated on numerous planets across the far flung Empire through various “accidents”.

The Foreign Legion pieces are perhaps the less original of all, even the action is still enjoyable. The enlisting, basic training cum bullying and first posting are of the kind you can find in numerous half-decent military science fiction books. The Legion’s cyborgs, here T1s (for Trooper 1) are mostly accessory to the story although they are included because our heroin happens to join the 1er REC (a cavalry regiment with the cyborgs being both the vehicles and autonomous armoured combatants in their own right.

Our heroin’s conduct under fire will, of course, be hugely heroic, because her actions happen to succeed although in reality they are quite foolhardy. This, of course, leads to battlefield promotions, especially given the huge – and somewhat incredible - casualty rates that the Legion forces seem to suffer in most engagements. This, however, is interspersed with actions that any organised armed forces would find perfectly unacceptable and unforgiveable, including an attempted desertion. Finally, the somewhat unavoidable piece of romance felt a bit contrived and also hard to believe.

If you are, as another reviewer put it, looking for something to “pass an afternoon on the sofa”, want to read an uncomplicated “shoot’em up” book and happen to like military science fiction, then this one will do the trick. It is not among the very best I have read, not even among this author’s best, but it is good enough and you might enjoy reading it for a few hours, as long as you do not start thinking too much about it. Four stars, mainly because I did liked it and it definitely served its purpose, despite all its limitations.
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on 15 March 2015
When Princess Ophelia Ordanus decides it’s time for a little “regime change,” she doesn’t do it by half measures, proceeding to drop her brother, Emperor Alfred Ordanus III, from the nearest observation tower of the Imperial Palace and immediately embarking on a massive purge of anyone whose loyalty to the former ruler might deem them suspect. Her synthetic troops, “synths” for short, are both methodical and ruthless, decimating the foremost families of the Empire, including that of Cyntarch Dor Carletto, whose close relationship with the Emperor seals his fate, and by extension his family’s. In the ensuing slaughter, Dor’s younger brother Rex manages to elude the death squads and send a warning to his niece, allowing her to avoid a similar fate—if she moves quickly.

Lady Catherine Carletto isn’t your average socialite, spending her days luxuriating in her family fortune. She’s learned the family trade (cyborg technology, in case you’re wondering); she’s smart, resourceful, and fueled by both her desire to live and to avenge her family. To achieve either goal Cat must disappear, remaining unnoticed within an empire whose agents have earmarked significant resources to her capture. Bereft of options, her one chance at survival lies in joining the Legion, a military organization where they don’t ask questions about your past. Criminals, dissidents, those who want or need to disappear, the Legion takes anyone as long as they’re willing to fight. With her signature on a contract, Cat Carletto the wealthy socialite dies, and Andromeda McKee the legionnaire, is born. If she can evade the Empress’ assassins and survive her time in the Legion, Andromeda McKee just might find a way to exact revenge.

William C. Dietz is known for his military science fiction, most notably the Legion of the Damned series, chronicling the exploits of a futuristic military force modeled along the lines the famous French Foreign Legion. Made up of human soldiers and their cyborg counterparts, the Legion attracts the underbelly of the Empire, molding them into a superior fighting force whose loyalty is not so much to the Empire as to their fellow legionnaires. Consisting of nine novels, The Legion series wrapped up in 2011 with A Fighting Chance. Since then, Dietz has embarked on a prequel trilogy: Andromeda’s Fall, Andromeda’s Choice, and most recently, Andromeda’s War. Being a latecomer to the series, Andromeda’s Fall seemed a most excellent place to begin.

Andromeda’s Fall is an origin story, introducing the reader to the life of a legionnaire as we watch Andromeda train in the ways of war, fast rising through their ranks. Andromeda is the prototypical strong female character, blending intelligence and cunning to further her goals, and Dietz portrays her in a realistic manner, at least as realistic as anyone can in a science fictional setting. She’s not the stereotypical “man with boobs” trope that a lot of authors tend to get wrong when they overemphasize the “strong” part of “strong female character.” Her strength comes from her intellect rather than her ability to throw a punch, and it makes Andromeda all the more interesting. Her personality is no-nonsense without being overbearing, none of the trademark “snark” that seems to define a lot of characters these days when they mistake an obnoxious personality for good leadership skills.

A good portion of the novel deals with Andromeda’s training with the Legion, and while it felt somewhat abbreviated for the level of competence she exhibits, it also gives us a good introduction to the Legion, how it operates, and to the cybernetic troopers (organic brains controlling robot bodies) that make up a significant portion of their fighting force. From there, the newly minted legionnaires whet their newfound skills fighting insurgents on Orlo II, one of the many worlds unhappy with their new Empress and her repressive policies. Once on planet, the rest of the novel consists of a series of combat situations for Andromeda and her compatriots leading up to an invasion by the alien Hudathans.
The Hudathans are the principle adversaries in the Legion of the Damned series, and this is perhaps why they aren’t fleshed out as a race particularly well in this prequel. My guess is that their motivations, psychology and society have been discussed in detail within the regular series, yet as someone coming to it fresh, the lack of back-story detracted somewhat from my enjoyment of the novel. However, the introduction of a series of synthetic assassins hunting down Andromeda/Cat added a nice “cat and mouse” aspect to the novel.

Andromeda’s Fall is not without its faults. Apparently in the far future, no one can administer DNA testing or facial recognition properly. I rolled my eyes while reading a scene where one of the hunters couldn’t identify Andromeda as Cat Carletto, not because she’s had massive plastic surgery, but because she had recently broken her nose and received a facial scar not on the official record. In another, the tension mounts as an FTD (fugitive tracking device) goes through the ranks, stops to sniff McKee, but then simply decides not to take a DNA sample. It was a little bit of unnecessary deus ex machina that felt contrived. However, this isn’t so much a complaint as it is a quibble.

I do find it interesting that Dietz decided to set his far future narrative in a universe where the dominant form of government is the Monarchy, a ruling system that seems quite anachronistic in this day and age. But, there is plenty of precedent. Frank Herbert did it in Dune with the reign of Emperor Shaddam IV, Asimov did the same with his Foundation series and Flash Gordon (okay, I might be stretching the analogy here) had Ming the Merciless, ruler of the planet Mongo. It’s an interesting throwback to the past thrust into a futuristic setting much as the fleet actions of many a sci-fi novel hearken back to the naval traditions embodied in Horatio Hornblower.

Andromeda’s Fall is an excellent starting point for those fans of military science fiction looking to explore the world of the Legion of the Damned.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 April 2014
The reviews and blurb promise a lot but I didn't feel that Andromeda's Fall really delivered. The heroine's personal journey from spoiled socialite to bad-ass soldier is pretty much GI Jane in space -- except all of the action is planet-bound so there's precious little 'space opera' in here.

The cyborg fighting machines are interesting, mind, as are the bad-guy synth robots, on a mission to seek out and destroy all those who might possibly oppose the new galactic empress. But none of the characters really developed into multi-faceted people: they just seem to have a role to fulfil to push the plot along from one conflict to the next. And there are plenty of shoot 'em up scenes involving rebels, natives and invading aliens. But why is the military hardware so basic, given that humans have space flight and are struggling against an alien opponent?
The underlying Foreign Legion plot is by the numbers; from boot-camp bullying to an unreasonable number of field promotions with a smattering of military jargon thrown around to make it feel realistic. Myke Cole's Control Point series feel much more credible and have a hard-edged, dry-eyed grit to them. Andromeda sneaks off for a good cry now and then, disobeys orders and develops a crush on a superior officer. She somehow inspires her squad without really demonstrating any leadership qualities, and gets away with making some truly dismal tactical decisions.

Overall, it passed an afternoon on the sofa... but I probably won't bother with the others in this series.
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on 25 June 2014
I have to admit that I am a virgin with respect to military SF but if this book is typical of the genre, I won't be pursuing it any further. The story is basically a World War II (or even World War I) saga with a few superficial additions(robots, fancy weapons etc) to make it seem somewhat futuristic. The heroine is a pampered member of a "royal family" (lady Catherine Carletto; personally, I would have hoped that the aristocracy would have died out - or been assassinated - well before this saga took place. She escapes from a coup which results in most members of her family being killed and in a very few pages turns from a "princess" into a bloodthirsty soldier, bent on revenge. Most of the book is filled with several tediously described and, in my humble opinion, faintly ridiculous "battle scenes" which could almost have taken place in medieval times. The tale is made even more far fetched by having a romantic component included as Lady Carletto, now known as Cat, falls for one of the lower ranks.

I did manage to read the entire book and perhaps for an officionado of this genre, it is an exciting read. As soon as I had finished it, I took it straight to a local charity shop where I hope they gave it away.
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on 27 January 2014
I often find when reading that I DREAD the female lead. Why? Because they tend to fall in to one of two categories:

Feels like that character was originally male, then they changed it last minute as a marketing gimmick.
Completely focused on the fact the she's female; either by pointing out how amazing it is that she's doing stuff men do, or by making you constantly aware of how female she is.

Fortunately, this book doesn't really do that. Dietz had the decency to make any reference to her femininity relevant, and doesn't make it seem like a disability like so many others do. So the book has that going for it.

Of course that wouldn't make much of a difference if the rest of the story was terrible. Fortunately, Andromeda's Fall is EXCELLENT. It's got lots of action and sci-fi warfare which is always entertaining. It has characters I actually LIKE which is always a bonus but more importantly, it has characters I HATE (and I am supposed to hate them). I find it is much more difficult to make me truly loathe a character and this book has at least three that I well and truly despise!

In short, I love it and can't wait to get my hands on the next one.

(Full disclosure: I received this free from the publisher to review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own and are not altered by this.)
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on 10 March 2017
Having read the original Legion of the Damned and The Final Battle many years ago, little else has been able to compare in action sci-fi since.
This is the start of a prequel trilogy, and despite concentrating on just a single character, it brings back the action and excitement of the original series.
I hope the rest of this prequel series keeps up the action
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on 3 February 2014
The plot is very predictable, albeit easy on the reader. There is , as always, the salvation of the main character brought about by the grizzly noncom pointing out the path to sublimation. Legio Patria Nostra. However, after oh so carefully hiding her talents and her past, an old schoolmate in tears is enough to prompt Andromeda to blow her cover. I would have expected some more depth and complexity in that pivotal decision. I will certainly buy the sequel, thought, as I am hopelessly addicted, and yet, with a caveat: Please don't be afraid to splurge on caffeine, William.
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VINE VOICEon 8 March 2014
If you want cracking action, a huge cast and of course some real kick ass characters to spend time with to get away from the real world, then you really have to give this title by William C Dietz a go. The principle character, whilst it took a while to get to, felt realistic to me, I loved the way she was rounded and how the author managed to make her vulnerable as well as thrusts her into the unknown within this epic storyline.

Add to this good solid pace that gives the readers cracking hard core action and then lulls to recover and absorb what has gone before. Its well written, has some wonderful turns of phrase and when adding into the piece some cracking dialogue all round gives you that real hit of something wonderful.
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on 30 May 2016
Good book with potential for a great series, looks like I am late to this party and the whole lot has already been published so in will find out soon enough if meets the potential!
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on 28 September 2017
All three books in this series are excellent as are the Legion of the Damned books.
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