Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Hammer - S.M. Stirling and David Drake

   1992; 290 pages.  New Authors? : No, and no.    Genre : Science Fiction; Military Fiction.  Book #2 (out of 7) of the “General” series.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    It’s been two years since the events of the first book in this series, wherein Raj Whitehall made a name for himself by saving the Civil Government’s butt.  Twice, even.  Now, Governor Barholm deems it’s time to go on the offensive and reclaim the long-lost southern territories.  And who better to lead the near-suicidal campaign than the current hero?

   For Raj, it is a lose-lose situation.  Defeat will mean his head will be cut off and stuck on a pole in enemy lands somewhere.  Success will increase his fame and popularity.  But the Civil Government grows fearful when their military leaders get too popular.  And they have ways of eliminating such figures.

What’s To Like...
     The “Warhammer” style is identical to the previous book in the series, The General, reviewed here.  The odds are overwhelmingly against Raj; the only thing he’s got going is the computer in his head and a small, but well-trained army.

    The tone is once again gritty, but the use of violence seems to blend better with the storyline here.  Some of the good guys die; some of the bad guys get away.  But you can probably guess the outcome, since Tewfik isn’t in this book.  There’s a pair of gay lovers/commanders in Raj’s elite inner circle.  That’s kinda daring and kewl, given that The Hammer was written in 1992, before the Gay Rights movement had really taken off.

    There is some humor amongst the gore; particularly the worship of the Almighty Computer.  I still like saying “Endfile” instead of “Amen”.

    This is an R-Rated book – for the violence, the cusswords, the merciless retributions, and the adult situations.  Some of us think that’s a plus.

Kewlest New Word...
Panjandrum  (n.)  :  a person who has or claims to have a great deal of authority or influence.

    “I can’t interfere in Messer Staenbridge’s household,” she pointed out gently.
    “Oh, I take care of that.  I got Gerrin to promise I could come as long as I healthy – now he and Barton trying to get me pregnant again so I have to stay home.”
    “You don’t like that?” Suzette said, surprised.
    “Oh, I like the trying, just don’t want it to work.”  (pg. 18)

    How are we doing, Center? Raj thought bitterly.
    better than expected, Center replied.
    Raj stiffened in surprise; the machine voice sounded almost jovial.
    if the enemy reacts perfectly, both in making a plan on the basis of statistically-insignificant intelligence and in execution of that plan, then they could successfully attack us tonight.  in that case, I will begin to believe in a god myself.  A pause, perhaps a heartbeat long. theirs.  (pg. 126)

 “Goodwill and artillery will get you more than goodwill.”  (pg. 54)
    One giant plus – the editing and proofing is greatly improved from Book 1.  I think I only caught one typo here.

    The Hammer focuses more on Raj and less on (the computer) Center.  Maybe it was just because Raj has learned to listen to the electronic advice.  Maybe there’s only so much you can do with a computer personality.  Either way, I liked the switch.

   The ending wraps up the immediate storyline nicely, although it is also somewhat of a cliffhanger, as Raj heads back to the capital to face the judgment and jealousy of the civil authorities.  With seven books in this series, I have a feeling that each one will cover a campaign by Raj and highlight the increasing tension between the army and the government.  We shall see.

    The writing is a bit more polished.  The irksome typos have been virtually eliminated.  But, as with any “middle” book in a series, there isn’t a lot of advancement in the “big picture” – how the exploits of Raj are going to impact the history of his own nation.  8 Stars.  As before, add one star if war-gaming is your cup of tea.

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