Having just read John Scalzi’s military science fiction novel, The Ghost Brigades, I got to thinking about military sf and my experiences with it.
My introduction to novel-length military sf was Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. I loved it but didn’t really pursue other military sf titles.
Eventually I came to my senses and checked out the Sten series by Chris Bunch and Allan Cole. To repeat myself: I loved the first Sten adventure. But the successive installments seemed to lose more and more of their appeal. By The Return of the Emperor (fifth in the series), I went into speed-reading mode. I couldn’t muster up enough will to even finish Vortex. Most annoying: somehow, with the Alex character’s thick, tough-to-read, comma-riddled [Scottish] brogue, I kept imagining him sounding like Groundskeeper Willie.
I liked the sub-genre, though. So I picked up two of John Ringo’s Posleen books, A Hymn Before Battle and Gust Front (See Tim’s review). I liked them, the former more so than the latter. The battle scenes were long, but then that’s the point of military sf. The second book felt a bit drawn out.
In 2004, I read a handful of short stories in the Space Soldiers anthology edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois. I like reading short stories not only for the varying author styles, but also (especially for themed anothologies like this one) for the landscape view it provides of, in this case, military sf. It surprised that military sf, already a sub-genre, has so many different aspects that made for many different flavors.
More recently, I read Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades, both immensely entertaining and fast-moving. These did not suffer from any pacing issues and stand out in my mind as the best of the military sf I’ve read. In considering my personal military sf experiences, I do wonder if hardcore military sf folks wouldn’t consider it “lite” military sf as the scenes are relatively quick and are not as detailed and drawn out as, say, the Ringo books.
David Drake is often considered the quintessential military sf author, something to which I cannot attest since I have not read anything by him. (Egads!) Not that my biblioholism hasn’t allowed me to buy some of his books, mind you, I just haven’t read any of his work. Maybe it’s time for that to change. I just found out (via Slush God John Joseph Adams who points to a half-price sale) that Night Shade Books has collected Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers series as The Complete Hammer’s Slammers. Volume 1, which includes an introduction by Gene Wolfe, is described as having “all of the Hammer’s Slammer short fiction, as well as all of the interstitial material from the original Slammers collection”. Sweet!