Tag Archives: war

Night Soldiers – Alan Furst

Spying came to him as making love comes to other men. It is his belief, in fact, that his father may have had relations with the Okhrana, the czar’s intelligence service, though his murder by the Turks was haphazard—simply one act in a village slaughter. But Avram knew them, whether they were Turkish Aghas or British officers, he always understood how they worked, where their vulnerabilities lay.

Night Soldiers is the first book in a long series, 14 books, of espionage novels in Europe starting in the 1930s and through World War II. It is a fictional story following Khristo Stoianev, a Bulgarian, who is recruited by NKVD, sent to Spain during the civil war, then escaped to Paris. The action moves all around Europe, from Bulgaria to Moscow, from Madrid to Paris, to Switzerland.

Gritty spy story in World World Two.

Spying activities of Bolsheviks, Spanish civil war factions, underground activities of French patriots, Nazi Gestapo are all presented through the eyes of the protagonist, in a gritty, tense and grey atmosphere.

In 1934, Stoianev sees his brother beaten to death by local fascists, so takes refuge with the communists, being sent for training in Moscow. He is then sent to Spain during the civil war. The Soviet purges caught him there, where he escapes, fleeing to Paris, but he still cannot shake the long hand of NKVD. The action moves then briefly to the US where the OSS is formed, then back to Europe with the French resistance. The transition between stories is smooth and the reader can feel the tense atmosphere from each country caught in the war.

The writing is captivating, with an imaginative, but not overly complicated plot. Despite presenting sometimes the mundane of life, Alan Furst keeps the reader on the edge. You can feel the tension brought by war and spying, just waiting for the moment to be discovered or to make a mistake.

The decisions of the main characters are well explained, seem genuine and keep the story compact. The reader knows in every moment why a character decided to act in a certain way, what is their motivation, desires. The character creation and the atmosphere created is top notch.

A recommended read for long winter nights.

Old Man’s War – John Scalzi

I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.
Visiting Kathy’s grave was the less dramatic of the two.

In a distant future, humanity developed, colonized different worlds and fights wars. The protagonist joins the Colonial Defense at 75 years old and finds that his conscience is transplanted in a new, young, augmented body. With that, he regains practically a second life, but the war he is about to embark and the Colonial Defense are a lot more sinister and mysterious than he thought.

Would you join army if you are given your youth again?

This book is a classical military sci, with an engaging premise and a good follow up. The ending is a bit open, more scifi than military. Overall, the book tilts towards a mystery scifi rather a military story.

Most of the book follows the transformations, physical and psychological, of the hero, John Perry, after the body transplant. After the training camp, the protagonist fight various aliens, gradually climbing ranks.

It was a good book, but not exceptional. Nonetheless, entertaining enough to finish it, but no continue with the series.

 

Courageous (The Lost Fleet, Book 3) – Jack Campbell

Deplorable practices adopted during the last century were repeatedly declared necessary if regrettable in order to win the war. Oddly enough, we’ve yet to win. You’d think somebody would have asked before this why the regrettable but necessary measures haven’t actually produced the promised results.

The star saga continue with the third book in the series, where Captain Jack Geary continues to lead the Alliance fleet in enemy space, trying to avoid the Syndics and get enough supplies to be able to combat.

Geary is avoiding enemy fleets, even if that means getting away of the Alliance-controlled space. However, that can’t last forever and  Geary has to fight some bloody battles. Those battles have real and impacting causalities, which makes the story credible.

Trying to outsmart the enemy, when an unexpected twist appears.

The protagonist is not a super-hero, with genious flair and incredible luck, but a leader with doubts, trying to make choices with the best information available.

The relations with Madam Co-President Victoria Rione and Captain Tanya Desjani of his flagship are subject to other people judgement, good or bad. But this does not distract from the main story, which is again full of space battles and military space tactics.

In this part, a new twist is added to the story, which makes it even more interesting, building on cues from the previous books.

This is a good book on its own, a relaxing and engaging read that I recommend for the fans of the genre.

Fearless (The Lost Fleet, Book 2) – Jack Campbell

The longstanding thorn in your side Captain Numos is stupid. In fact, Numos is so dense that I’m surprised he doesn’t have his own event horizon.

The second book of the series continued the adventures of Captain Jack “Black Jack” Geary in his quest to save the Alliance fleet from the enemy in Syndic space.  This time around, Captain Geary has to deal with unexpected mutiny as well, having to fight internal and external enemies at once.

Military scifi book, for the fans of the genre.

The protagonist is now better defined, Captain Geary having to work on the politics of his own fleet, as well as dealing with the continuing enemy pursuit. The story universe is given more depth and there is even more action than in the first book. However, the book manages to keep the main story straight and introduces some very unexpected twists, on several levels.

The second book is at least as better as the first one, with a bit more creative narrative and better described space battles. The effort put in imagining scientifically coherent space battles is impressive.

There is little psychological monologue and soul-searching, which makes the book uncomplicated and easy to read. For military scifi fans, it is a quite rewarding read.

Koban – Stephen W. Bennett

His octet was to be limited to the same weapons these humans were given. A very detailed video of the compound’s terrain was furnished. This he shared with his octet, because every Krall had an inborn ability to memorize such details for a mission. Repetition was unnecessary.

Koban is a very imaginative and action-packed military survival sci-fi. The story revolves around Captain Mirikami, who is transporting in a passenger spaceship scientists to a far colony, when he is attacked by an unknown and far more advanced alien species. Captain Mirikami and all on board is then isolated on a dangerous planet, Koban, where he has to prove to alien war race that humanity deserve to be treated as worthy opponents.

The author creates an entire universe with this book, with a new planet and a new alien species. The Krall are very advanced military, highly physical, destroyed or enslaving every other intelligent species they met so far. They use those wars to enhance their military abilities. Humans are considered weak and very low technologically speaking, but they are still put to trial. If they succeed, aliens plan to destroy humans gradually, rather then in a one big stroke, hence the struggle of Captain Mirikami.

Scifi survival story

Stephen Bennett creates a future where genetic warfare  almost killed the entire male population and changed ways of society. The men are subservient to women and the first part of the book is full with sexist situations. After the genetic war. humanity is not fighting internally nor meeting any other intelligent species in 300 years.

The narrative is captivating, some chapters are looking at events through the eyes of predators on Koban, some others through the Krall aliens. It makes the story a lot more interesting.The book has some fantastic ideas, but with others it went overboard. The sexism is interesting, but not adding to the story. The genetic enhancement done in days leave too many logical holes.

Nonetheless, it is a solid scifi survival book, imaginative, well paced, action-packed and entertaining.

Dauntless (The Lost Fleet, Book 1) by Jack Campbell

Man of war (series) – H. Paul Honsinger

New contact!” Lieutenant Kasparov announced from the Sensors Station.  “Infrared and mass detection, bearing three-five-seven mark zero-six-eight.  Designating as Hotel eleven.  Classified as definite hostile.  No effort at stealth.”  Then, under his breath, he added, “Arrogant bastards.”

“Very well.”  Lieutenant Commander Max Robichaux, Union Space Navy, Captain of the Khyber class destroyer USS Cumberland, acknowledged the contact report but let the comment pass, not because it was appropriate–which it was not–but because he heartily concurred.  Judging by the quiet murmurs of agreement from the dozens of men at their General Quarters stations in the Cumberland’s Combat Information Center, he wasn’t the only one.

The destroyer’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Eduardo DeCosta, leaned toward Max and said in a low voice, “No stealth.  Looks like disdain.  We’re not a threat to them, so they don’t need to waste effort making themselves hard to detect.”

Max shook his head and answered at the same volume—his voice would not carry beyond the Command Island, the platform in the center of CIC where the Commander’s and Executive Officer’s Stations, as well as an additional console known as the Commodore’s Station, were located.  “That’s not it, XO.  Krag disdain for us ‘blaspheming monkeys’ is a given.  Their goal is intimidation.  They want to make sure we know they’re here and how many of them are hunting us.  They want us cowed.  Too scared to think.  Believing we’re already dead so we’ll stop fighting to survive.” [Book 3 – Brothers in Valour]

The series follows the adventures of Max Robichaux, captain of a war spaceship engaged in the war with an alien empire, some 300 years in the future.

There are three books in the series: To Honor You Call Us, For Honor We Stand and Brothers in Valour. Interestingly, the first two were self-published (this means there was no publishing house behind them) and enjoyed an immense success.

The series are classical in the sense of story building. Captain Robichaux gradually earns his success and military victories, while training and giving confidence to his destroyer’s crew. On his side, there is his best friend, Dr Sahin, and a reliable council of advisers. The victories follow one after the other, but not without losses. The focus is on the hero and his crew, less on the ship itself.

to-honor-you-call-us
A nice, relaxed reading.

There are writers who like to introduce convoluted psychological plots and mind games. However, the author, Paul Honsinger, likes his story clean; the focus is on the fight itself, on the universe around it and on the crew. This makes the story easy to follow and engaging.

There is no hard scifi in those books, but the plot is imaginative, with nice twists. Also, every decision from the universe (such as why no women on board) is given a credible explanation (a genophage virus  sent by aliens to kill human females, due to the low reproductive rate of human species in comparison with aliens).

The battles are very creative and well described. The evolution of the hero and the crew is impressive. The captain is just an ordinary guy (not a prince or the son of a general), with a lot more grit, common sense and willingness to win that others. This type of character makes the reader to identify him/herself with the hero and follow his decisions.

I loved the series, it was easy to read. It was not a big,  convoluted plot where you have to make notes in order to remember what is happening. One of the most relaxing reads of military scifi.