REVIEW SUMMARY: A quick and fun read with some plot pacing issues.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The real wartime adventures of a soldier symbiotically connected to an intelligent super-tank with virtual reality capabilities.
PROS: Easily digestible writing style; interesting blend of military sf and virtual reality.
CONS: Pacing issues caused failure to deliver on-time the promise on the title.
BOTTOM LINE: Worth the read if you liked A Boy and His Tank.
The War with Earth by Leo Frankowski and Dave Grossman is the sequel to Frankowski’s A Boy and His Tank. When last we left Mickolai Derdowski, he had become a hero in his battles on New Yugoslavia where he worked as a mercenary. Equipped with a super-intelligent battle tank capable of immersing its owner in a virtual reality Dream World at thirty times normal speed, Mickolai kicked some butt, met a girl and got married. Only now we find out it was all a dream. (Not a spoiler – this much is given in the first part of the book and on the back cover.) Or, more precisely, it all happened in virtual reality. The trouble is that now Mickolai’s home planet of New Kashubia is on the verge of a war with Earth. Will Mickolai be able to recapture his VR glory?
Although this novel will work as a standalone novel, having read the previous book greatly helps in understanding the characters and technology. The coolest part of the book was the interesting blend of military science fiction and virtual reality. In Dream World, Mickolai, his wife Kasia and his team of elite generals could essentially do whatever they wanted. Aside from the VR training enforced upon them by their super-intelligent tanks, Mickolai (with the help of his tank Agnieshka) also manages to amass a huge fortune, build a city in his own personal valley and construct an army of human-like drones. Not bad for a mercenary pretending to be a general to placate the masses.
Mickolai’s character, though ultimately likable, is at times annoyingly flawless in his morals, military acumen, and financial wizardry. His perfection (and his VR escapades – mostly sexual) makes the story seem to be a bit of a wish-fulfillment fantasy. But it’s still a fun read thanks to the reader-friendly writing style. I found myself whipping through the pages faster than one of Agnieshka’s rail gun rounds. This was fortunate as it took nearly 175 of its 400 pages before the advertised war with Earth started. During that time, Mickolai and Kasia used their super-intelligent tanks to rake in huge fortunes and convert a valley into a city obscenely decadent. While this was interesting, there was ample time to wonder when the so-called war would actually commence. When it finally did kick into high-action mode, the book was more enjoyable. (I especially enjoyed the tunnel battle scenes on New Kashubia, Mickolai’s home planet where people live underground in the metal-rich planet.) The ultimate reason for the war at book’s end was a pleasant surprise and somewhat explained the lackluster pacing of the first half of the book, but not enough to justify it.
Still, I would recommend this quick and fun read to anyone who liked the former outing and is interested in military science fiction and virtual reality.