Stryker's War Book Review

What use is the valor of brave men in the service of evil goals? Stryker’s War is the most gut-wrenching book in the Order of Centurion series so far because it takes a good hard look at the reality that not everything that can get a soldier killed is worth dying for.



Dear Mom and Dad,

If you are reading this, I’m not coming home.

The opening lines of each chapter of Stryker’s War are the words of a dead man. A man who clearly believed in the view of war in St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, which files war under love of neighbor. The letter writer saw his service in the Legion as a noble pursuit, ordered to the common good, the tranquillitas ordinis, the well-ordered peace. It is not enough that there is an absence of conflict. You must also see that justice be done.

Unfortunately, the Galactic Republic isn’t really in the business of dispensing justice any more.

They are still in the business of delivering a smack down to anyone who dares to defy them, which the Legion is willing and capable of supplying. Curiously, the House of Reason, and its appointed officers, do not take the Roman model of solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. With increasing political control of the Legion, it would be easy to crush their enemies and see them driven before them, but this isn’t what we see.

The Legion is a calling and the day I signed up, I gave my life to that calling.

I would guess the reason is two-fold: a numerous and well-equipped Legion is a more dangerous Legion, including to the House of Reason. Maybe worse, in their eyes, is that a visibly successful Legion would have greater political legitimacy. This is likely a simple matter of not enabling a likely enemy. But also, it seems that the House of Reason feels that war must be a little wicked, because it costs money.

With this two-fold reason to never really give the Legion what it wants, even as the House of Reason needs it to take care of its problems, we come to the world of Gestor. Unwilling to commit more than a platoon to fix a security problem at a valuable mining operation, everything quickly spirals out of control into one of the most epic charlie foxtrots I have ever seen.

Every Legionnaire that died felt like I lost a friend. I wanted to scream at the stupid point who wouldn’t call in close air support even to save himself. Rage boiled up against the fools who sent so many men to die because they didn’t want to show up in force. My heart broke for the insurgents too, who just wanted their fair share of the profits of their own mine, and who were getting cheated not just by the Republic, but by their underworld contacts as well.

Now I can see why so many were willing to join up with Goth Sullus, and how even the loyal remnant was willing to invoke Article 19 and go to war against the Republic. This is intolerable. Yet, this much, and worse, was tolerated nonetheless.

There are some bad people in the galaxy, and sometimes they need to be taught a lesson. The Legion teaches that lesson well.

I might have finally met my match, but don’t want you to be sad. I stood with my brothers against evil and fought for those who couldn’t.

I only hope I made you proud.

Until the day finally came when good men could stand it no longer.

I was provided a copy of this ebook by the publisher for free.

My other book reviews | Reading Log

Galaxy’s Edge season 1:
Legionnaire: Galaxy's Edge #1 book review
Galactic Outlaws: Galaxy's Edge #2 book review
Kill Team: Galaxy's Edge #3 book review
Attack of Shadows: Galaxy's Edge #4 book review
Sword of the Legion: Galaxy's Edge #5 Book Review
Tin Man: Galaxy's Edge Book Review
Prisoners of Darkness: Galaxy's Edge #6 Book Review
Imperator: Galaxy's Edge Book Review
Turning Point: Galaxy's Edge #7 Book Review
Message for the Dead: Galaxy's Edge #8 Book Review
Retribution: Galaxy’s Edge #9 Book Review

Tyrus Rechs: Contracts & Terminations:
Requiem for Medusa: Tyrus Rechs: Contracts & Terminations Book 1 Review

Takeover: Part 1 Book Review
Takeover: Part 2 Book Review

Order of the Centurion
Order of the Centurion #1 book review
Iron Wolves: Order of the Centurion #2 book review

Everything Will Wight on Sale!

I’m trying to catch up on my sleep, so things are quiet around here right now, but Will Wight announced a sale on his blog:


Unsouled (Ben’s review)
House of Blades (Ben’s review)

On sale for 99¢

The Crimson Vault (Ben’s review)
City of Light (Ben’s review)

Soulsmith (Ben’s review)
Blackflame (Ben’s review)
Skysworn (Ben’s review)
Ghostwater (Ben’s review)

I love Will Wight’s books, so now is a great chance to get started on these series cheap!

Will Wight's Traveler's Gate Trilogy Free on Amazon Kindle

Now that I have finished reviewing the Traveler's Gate trilogy, and I have reviewed four of the five Cradle books, I am happy to share the news that Will Wight is making both the Traveler's Gate trilogy and Cradle: Foundations, the first three books in that series, available free on Amazon, June 1st, 2018!

Head on over and download them now! Here are my reviews of these fantastic books:

House of Blades: Traveler's Gate Book 1 Review

The Crimson Vault: Traveler's Gate Book 2 Review

City of Light: Traveler's Gate Book 3 Review

Unsouled: Cradle Book 1 Review

Soulsmith: Cradle Book 2 Review

Blackflame: Cradle Book 3 Review

Skysworn: Cradle Book 4 Review

You can also snag some free wallpaper images from Wight's website.

No, You Can't Be an Astronaut Book Review

No, You Can't Be an Astronaut: Why you shouldn't follow your dreams--and what to do instead
by Patience Fairweather, PhD
Plausible Press (January 18, 2018)
$9.99 paperback; $3.49 kindle edition; 186 pages
ISBN 978-1548082963

I received this book for free from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Program.

Patience Fairweather [a pseudonym] is preaching to the choir. I have also been saying that the STEM crisis is a myth, and that we have plenty of well-educated Americans to do all the jobs we have. I appreciate it when anyone else says it, and backs it up with data.

What is more interesting, is what we should do about. Fairweather has written a book that provides sound, reasonable advice to individuals, especially the very young, or those contemplating a career change. This is not a book of policy, but rather a checklist combined with useful background information, to provide opportunity to ordinary Americans. 

After the introduction, Fairweather has a section on personality assessments. This section is pretty good, especially insofar as it encourages the reader to seek out objective information about what they like, and what they are good at. A variety of different tests are cited, including the popular-but-flawed Myers-Briggs, and the better replicated OCEAN model. The point of all is to find out what you would be willing to tolerate for money, because following your dreams can end very poorly. It is often better to find out what you can stand that someone will pay you to do.

Which is the next section of the book! Fairweather looks at ways to assess your actual likelihood of graduating college, and then assessing whether this would truly be a net financial benefit to you. Sure, on average, college graduates make more money, but will you? Sometimes, the answer is no, and Fairweather provides some tools, for example the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the United States, that can answer that question pretty accurately.

Following chapters contain commonsense advice about using time wisely in college, avoiding social media mistakes that can cost you your job, job-hunting and interview skills, and how to succeed in the workplace. I've done technical recruiting for twelve years, and this is good stuff. If you don't need this book to point this stuff out, great for you, but honest mistakes can cost people chances they would otherwise have. Don't let that be you.

Highly recommended.

My other book reviews

There Will Be War Volume X Book Review

There Will Be War Volume X
Created by Jerry Pournelle, Edited by John F. Carr

This is the last volume in the late Jerry Pournelle's long running series, There Will be War. Volume IX was published in 1990. Jerry said that the series had originally ended when the Cold War did, but the return of great power politics with Russia and China made it relevant again. It has sold well over the years, if Jerry had lived longer, I imagine more volumes would have been forthcoming. 

This volume is just as good as any of the previous installments. One major change is that China is featured as the bête noire instead of Russia, but otherwise the basic structure remains the same: short science fiction with a military focus is interspersed with non-fiction essays on military topics, all of it woven together with short introductions by Jerry.

There were some great stories in this volume. Standouts for me were "Flashpoint: Titan" by Cheah Kai Wai, "The Fourth Fleet" by Russell Newquist, "Among Thieves" by Poul Anderson, and '"Fly-by-Night"' by Larry Niven. All the stories in this volume were good, which makes it hard to pick my favorites, so I go by the ones that stick in my memory the best.

In particular, Larry Niven's contribution astonished me with how dense it was. Larry managed to pack so much detail into every sentence that I had a little trouble keeping up. I found myself scanning back every so often to make sure I hadn't missed something interesting. I often had. I hadn't previously considered getting into Known Space or the Man-Kzin Wars, but now I want to.

I've found a number of great authors via their contributions to this series, for example Gordon Dickson. In this case, I was already familiar with Larry's books with Jerry Pournelle, but I only kind of liked The Magic Goes Away, the only solo Niven book I've read. Looking back at my review, I wrote it up better than I remember it. Thanks to this collection, I'm willing to give Niven's other books a chance. Which is after all the point of short stories; they give you a chance to try authors out rapidly, and see who you might like to read more. 

I think this volume continues a great tradition, and it has some great stories in it. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes any of the authors who contributed, fans of military science fiction, and anyone who likes a cracking good yarn. You should be able to find something you like.

My other book reviews

There Will Be War Volume X
By Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Ben Bova, Gregory Benford, David VanDyke, Martin van Creveld, Phillip E. Pournelle, Doug Beason

The Red King Book Review

It's the end of the world as we know it

It's the end of the world as we know it

The Red King
by Nick Cole
Amazon Digital 2005
$0.00; 285 pages

I don't usually read ebooks. I have an irrational love of physical books, with their scent of slowly oxidizing paper. I find that I will do almost anything to avoid reading ebooks. Thus despite having over 700 physical books in my house, I only have a dozen or so ebooks.

I picked this up because it was free. And because I liked Soda Pop Soldier. In a free moment, I pulled the book up on my phone to pass the time. I found that I could not put it down. That was a pleasant surprise. No other ebook has yet done that to me, although I don't make a habit of buying electronic versions of the books of my favorite authors. Nick Cole may just break me of that habit.

I like The Red King because it is a pastiche. I hope Cole won't hold that against me. I like pastiche. Especially when it is done well. And this is done very, very well. I feel like Cole and I probably read and watched the same things growing up, because I really enjoyed all those sly references to other books, movies, and videogames.

However, just because your book is a pastiche, doesn't mean you lack imagination or skill as a writer. I usually judge authors by their characters, and the ultimate test is whether I feel like a character isn't a character at all, but a person. Holiday, the hard-drinking screw-up who finds that he has survived the end of the world because he was sleeping off a bender, seems like a person to me. I am inclined to cut him some slack, because I kind of like him, even though he knows his way around a bottle.

Much of the supporting cast meets my other criterion for good characters: they seem like someone I've met. A character created to fill a role, or a slot, or a stereotype just doesn't seem like a real person. However, most real people really are pretty stereotypical, and you have to observe them to be able to represent that faithfully. Reading about people who seem like I could run into them on the street makes a book a pleasure to read, and this book was indeed a pleasure to read.

Finally, I just like the end of the world. I've been reading both fiction and non-fiction on this subject for 15 years, and it is perennially interesting. The apocalypse is about us: who we are, and who we'd like to be. Every end of the world has it's own story to tell, and I'd like to see where Cole is going with this. Oh, and look, I can got get the other books right now....

My other book reviews

Free Books

Two free ebooks today.

The first is Breaking the Law of Averages, an introductory statistics book that I recomment. Matt Briggs approaches the subject in a wholly modern way, relying on your computer to do the math, allowing the student to focus on the more important task of understanding what you are doing. Briggs applies objective Bayesian probability theory in this book, allowing for an easy introduction to the subject. This book also has a simple R primer in it.

The second is Modern Perl, a primer on Perl 5.