Friday, December 20, 2013

Come and Take Them by Tom Kratman

Tom Kratman once again delivers a great story of warfare between the nations of Terra Nova. Left to themselves, the Tauran Union leadership might be content to merely restrict the freedoms of the people of Balboa by imposing various economic sanctions and hoping that their barbaric moral philosophy leads to their downfall in the end. Unhappily, UEPF high Admiral Wallenstein isn't willing to wait that long, so she bribes and cajoles the Taurans into provoking a war with Carrera's Legion.

There are still a few honest men left on the Tauran side, and their supreme commander, works directly with Carrera to stand down from the first provocations, hoping to achieve an uneasy peace once more. That hope is shattered later when a group of women from the Tauran Union are captured, tortured and killed, and the video released showing that Balboan security forces were responsible. So, the war begins.

Carrera has spent years preparing for this conflict, setting up multiple lines of ambush and surprise to use when it all hits the fan. We get to see some of the preparations, though only a portion of those become relevant in Come and Take Them, so it is likely that they'll be revealed in all their sneaky glory in another installment of this saga.

There are a couple of "cameo" appearances from primary characters in The Amazon Legion here. The action in that novel is going on in parallel with this one, and some of it becomes crucial to the outcome. The book is pretty clear at the end that this is just the beginning of the war, and there are at least a couple of interesting plot threads left dangling; what's going to happen with Carrera's son, Hamilcar, and his harem who worship him as god? and how is the traitor within Wallenstein's staff going to affect the outcome of things?

One quote I found amusing:

" we do well on those (standardized) tests because we are bright, or despite the fact that we're bright? Because most of the people who do well on standardized intelligence tests are, as near as I can figure, incompetent, arrogant morons who are ruining our world. Whatever those tests measure, it is not intelligence, and whatever the schools are delivering that those tests get people into, it is not competence."

If I had a quibble with this book, it's that it jumps around so often that I really had to stop and think and concentrate to keep track of who, when and where things were happening. In a way, I suppose, it was a bit like the fog of war, and I really couldn't be certain at any given time who was winning, in the big picture. I also missed the quotations from History and Moral Philosophy that appeared in earlier books.

Pulling no punches, this is a tough war novel, forget the science fiction.

On the positive side, I finally got to find out what Alex Kilgour of the Sten novels "reeking lums" were. On the negative side, I had to wait too long for it, subjectively speaking.

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