Military science fiction is one of those sub-genres of science fiction to which I find myself drawn. It tends to be action oriented, with simple and direct plots that I find enjoyable when I’m looking for simple escapist fiction. And the good thing about this type of science fiction is that it tends to lend itself to series that allow you to return to the universe again and again. Here are a few of my favourites:
Last week I said the David Weber was one of my go to authors and the reason for that is his Honor Harrington series. Honor Harrington made her début in the novel On Basilisk Station in 1993.
This first story begins with Honor as a newly promoted commander of the Royal Manticorian ship H. M. S. Fearless. Honor has been given a newly refit ship with a less than stellar crew and under the squadron command of her arch nemesis. Certainly a less than ideal situation, but through hard work and sterling example she whips her crew and ship into shape, and through her tactical genius defeats an opponent that outweighs Fearless.
If Honor Harrington sounds familiar that’s because it probably is. David Weber purposely set out to recreate the Peninsular Wars in space and used C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower (get it, HH) as his model. If you’ve studied any of this period’s history some of the names will be quite familiar as well as the political leanings of different factions.
I’ve followed Honor, her crews, her peers and subordinates through some 28 novels and short story collections. That’s a lot of story for the newcomer, but if you stick with it, the Honorverse has some very rewarding moments.
Another author to use Horatio Hornblower as a model for his fiction was David Feintuch in his excellent Nicholas Seafort saga. The first book Midshipman’s Hope was published in 1994 and follows the life of seventeen year-old midshipman Nicholas Seafort aboard the UNS Hibernia.
During a voyage to Hope Station and Detour the Hibernia encounters a derelict ship and during a rescue attempt of one of it’s survivors all the senior officers are killed leaving young Seafort in sole command of Hibernia. Seafort struggles through a three year long voyage that tests his ability to command not only military people, but the civilian passengers aboard Hibernia. Ultimately an encounter with an alien caused Seafort to return to Earth to warn about the danger of this alien.
The saga of Nicholas Seafort follows him through his ascending career until he is reaches the lofty position of Secretary General of the U.N. Even for all his success Nicholas Seafort is a tortured and somewhat tragic character in that he can never take any happiness from his success. This is due to his religious beliefs in that he feels he’s damned his soul for all eternity.
I actually read Midshipman’s Hope several years before On Basilisk Station and my views of the later are coloured by my experience with the former. To this day I find the Seafort saga to be superior to Harrington. Unfortunately David Feintuch passed away in 2006. There is, however, a completed manuscript for a final Seafort book, but Orbit has no plans to publish it at the moment.
Back in 1993 (what was up with the 90’s) I discovered another military science fiction series, this time by William C. Dietz, Legion of the Damned. The Legion, the successor to the French Foreign Legion, is comprised of criminals, misfits, and the dead (in the form of brain boxed cyborgs), and are the last hope of humanity in a war against the alien invaders, the Hudatha.
The Legion of the Damned series of books are action oriented stories that often figure around the Legion doing impossible things against impossible odds. They are a fast and fun read that don’t demand too much in the way of thinking.
This is not a slight against the books, on the contrary. Sometimes you want a book that just washes over you without having to put any effort into it and these books do the job admirably.
There are nine books in the Legion series and now Dietz has written a trilogy of prequels about an earlier time of the Legion. I’ve not yet read these but I have no doubt they’ll be as entertaining as the rest of the series has been.
These series are fun and not too serious reads. There are no political agendas or styling where the author is trying to convey some deeper message to us. While there is military science fiction of that nature, and some of it is damned good too, I can also appreciate less complicated stories that are there to simply entertain us. And in the end all good fiction, of any genre, has to entertain.