Friday, April 15, 2011

A Desert Called Peace by Tom Kratman

A Desert Called Peace (Baen Science Fiction)
This novel by Kratman barely qualifies as science fiction. I've mentioned before that in the realm of what's published these days as science fiction or fantasy, there are actually many books which are more realistically termed as Westerns or Romance or Detective novels, which only get called SF & F because they don't take place on modern day Earth. Kratman's book is really just Military fiction which happens to take place a century or so from now, though even the weaponry hasn't changed that much from what we have today - there's no disruptors, ray guns, stunners or particle beams, just plain old projectile weapons and some good old-fashioned nukes.

Most of the action takes place on Terra Nova (New Earth, right?) and seems to be a slightly altered version of recent events on our planet. A retired military man, Patrick Hennessey, loses his entire family when two airships deliberately crash into the skyscraper where his family's business offices are located, while his wife and children are visiting his uncle. Rather than burn to death in the resulting conflagration, they leap to their deaths as do many others. Hennessey attends their memorial service, then descends into an alcoholic grief-fueled stupor for several months, until some of his friends, former allies and enemies, come to him with a plan which will allow him to take his revenge on the terrorists who ruined his life.

Surprise! The terrorists are Salafi extremists, who have merely been a nuisance to the other cultural enclaves on Terra Nova up to this point. But someone behind the scenes is funding them and giving them strategies and intelligence information to carry out increasingly effective acts of terrorism. Hennessy and his friends begin to build a military force that can reach out to kill the Salafis in their homelands, and eventually are recruited as a mercenary force by the FSC, the most powerful nation on the planet, to do just that.

The main story line is interrupted fairly regularly with what might be termed flashbacks, showing how Terra Nova was discovered, then colonized by Earth. Most of the people who emigrated were either the best and brightest, or what the United Nations, which gained supreme power over Earth as time went by, considered troublemakers - often both. The United Nations, and Earth itself, are now stagnating, and are only able to make repairs to their aging space fleet by selling off Earth's art treasures to the Terra Novans, who have a robust economy, for the most part. The Admiral of the UN fleet in orbit about the planet, and his staff, are hopelessly decadent and corrupt, and are searching for a way to prevent the FSC and its allies from ever achieving space travel, so that they never are able to return to Earth, to dominate the world either militarily or economically.

Brutal violence, graphic sex, just the usual Baen blend these days. Aside from some interesting political musings well blended into the action, that might cast some light on what the author feels would be a more effective set of tactics to use against Islamic terrorism on our planet, it's just pure war porn.


Tom Kratman said...

Hmmm..."pure war porn?" You didn't learn _anything_ about the art and process of war - principles, training, tactics and techniques, organization, logistics, strategic mobility, leadership - from reading it? If not, in your case, I guess, I failed.

Tom Kratman

Jon said...

Thanks for the comment, Tom.
The question of whether I learned anything about the subjects you mention could become an entire essay, but attempting to be brief.
Having never served, nor at age 51, being likely to serve as a commander of any armed forces, it's difficult for me to determine the accuracy of military tactics, techniques or any of those things from a fictional work. In fact, John Ringo, a fellow Baen author of yours, specifically cautions against it in his forewards.
I also recently gave my son, a Marine on his second deployment, a copy of Heinlein's Starship Troopers. He told me he was enjoying it, but that Heinlein obviously had no grasp of squad tactics, and the combat was extremely unrealistic. I couldn't have told you whether it was or wasn't, so I don't think of myself as a judge of the validity of military matters within a book I'm reading for entertainment.
Regarding it being pure "war porn", it seems to have a strong component of fantasy wish-fulfillment throughout. "If we could just take the kid gloves off and fight these people with all our abilities, we would triumph." Much like Ringo's Ghost series, never going to happen, but it's great fun dreaming - and reading - about it.

Tom Kratman said...

Not just that, Starship Troopers get the basic need for admin and training, post basic, completely wrong. Everybody might work, but, no, not everybody's going to fight.

That said, unlike John, all my training, plus tactical and logistic play, in the books, I've either done myself, seen done, or know that some force at some time and some place has done it. Also, every battle of any significance I do either an OPLAN, fire support plan, and log plan for, or at least matrices for those.

Short version; among other things, I intended it to be a textbook and how to manual.

PavePusher said...

Note that some of the problems with 'Starship Troopers' were from it being written/edited for the YA/Juvenile market, at a time when "realistic combat" wasn't allowed in such books. It was 1959 fer cryin' out loud.

The message he was sending was about civic duty, not violence for it's own sake.