Space Infantry by Dave Drake et al

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Space Infantry is a Military Science Fiction anthology edited by Dave Drake, Charles G. Waugh and Martin Greenberg. It contains stories by a dozen authors spanning 3 decades. In order of appearance they are:

Of the lot, Joe Haldeman, Gordon R. Dickson, Jerry Pournelle and Fritz Leiber are Hugo Award winners, though not for these stories. Mr. Drake and Mr. Haldeman served in Viet Nam. Their experiences color and inform their stories. Mr. Drake once said that his Hammers Slammers stories were partly therapy. Though clumped together as "Space Infantry," these stories run a wide gamut in attitude and outlook, and they need not strictly speaking be about Infantryman at all. Anyone simply seeking simple action adventure, bang-bang-your-dead, stories may be disappointed. There is so much more here than that. Anyone looking for high quality writing should read these stories. They stand out as excellent severally and separately. The book is essential to anyone with more than a superficial interest in Military Science Fiction-- especially anyone interested in the crafting or the history of Military Sci Fi.

The Rocketeers Have Shaggy Ears Mr. Bennett's story is not so much about ground sloggers as downed rocketeers who get the job done regardless of any obstacles and who coincidentally save their corps from absorption or disbandment. The basis for the title, according to Drake, is a song-- "The Mountaineeers Have Hairy Ears," whose lyrics I'll not reproduce here, and which carries the same emotional load of the Viet Nam Era, "don't mean nothin" in the context of having just had one's eye shot out. Mr. Drake was half a generation removed from Rocketeers, as I am from Drake's Slammers. In the context of today's milieu, the story is shockingly militaristic and imperialistic, much reflective of the attitude of the times in which it was written, 1950. No consideration is given to the real estate and no quarter to the natives. AS I said, the these admitted "Sons of bi-- er, Space" get the job done. There is of course a problem with some stories written in the 1950's. The idiom is changed. Readers of today may find it difficult to relate to.

His Truth Goes Marching On Dr. Pounelle is a Politcal Scientist and this story is as much a poli-sci treatise as it is a work of military science fiction. It is of course set in the Falkenberg's Legion universe before the collapse of the Co-Dominion and the ascension of Lysander to the Spartan throne, just prior to Ace Barton and Peter Owensford signing up with Colonel Falkenberg. Don't get me wrong, there's enough army life and gun play and slogging through mud for anyone's taste. There's also betrayal and a nuke.The story is well worth the read for anyone with a brain. But you won't know the truth till you read that last couple of paragraphs.

But as a Soldier, For His Country, Quoth the author, "It's a young man's story, venting frustration at the futility and lunacy of war." It grew into the novel, The Eternity Brigade. I'm one of those people made uncomfortable by this story. But guess what-- the purpose of good writing is not to make the reader feel good. Imagine the sheer unpleasantness and daily grind of war. Then imagine the worst parts. Imagine dying in battle. Then imagine being resurrected and even copied countless times for an age, till finally you meet yourself in battle. A well wriiten reductio ad absurdum.

Soldier Boy Michael Shaara won the Pulitzer Prize for The Killer Angels, a novel about the Battle of Gettysburg. "Soldier Boy" was also made into a novel; it tells the story of the lone soldier, at a number of disadvantages, that must come to grips with a superior opponent through his native intelligence and leadership skills. It's a well crafted story about a young man coming into his own. The antagonistis remarkable.

Code-Name Feirefitz Despite being in law school, David Drake was drafted to serve in Viet Nam. He eventually became a member of a Battalion Information Center with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. His experiences there form the basis of his Hammer's Slammers stories. The prime movers in "Code Name Feirefitz" are not the highly capable Captain Esa Mboya or his Golf Company Slammers, but two civilans. Their conflict is key to Mboya's own conflict between duty and conscience. The story contrasts the grittiness and hardness of the soldiers as they set about doing their duty with the composure and quiet persistence of Esa's brother Juma as he does his. Their dedication contrasts with the desperate selfishness of ben Khedda as he seeks to sacrifice anyone to survive. The faith of Jooma plays against that of the Kaid who will risk anything to save his people, and both stand out against the faithlessness of ben Khedda.

The Foxholes of Mars Fritz Leiber has won numerous awards-- one of the great masters of Science Fiction. Leiber's opening imagery and setting creation is masterful. Leiber's prose is deep and lush with layers of meaning. War is just the setting for a deep and not terrible pleasnt look deep into a man's soul-- the soul of a budding demagouge. I find no indication that this story won Hugo or Nebula. It should have. It's shocking that an anthology containing this story should be available for a penny. This story in and of itsself is priceless.

Conqueror Eisenber crafts his story well, creating a believable setting and a sympathetic protangonis in a story that starts out being a story about the lone foot slogger a long way from home and in need of human contact, validation of his own humanity. Ends up as a story about successful psy-ops and asymmetric warfare against an occupying force.

Warrior The first Gordon Dickson I read was the short story "Soldier Ask Not" in The Hugo Winners. Warrior is a side piece to his Childe Cycle stories, about the Dorsai general Ian Graeme. It is included in the anthology Lost Dorsai.

Though the action of the story takes place far from the battlefields of the Splinter worlds, it is full of strategy, including the principle of calculated risk, and tactics. (Including "Tactics of Mistake"-- this is a Graeme we're talking about.) It portrays Graeme as the Dorsai archetype-- not only the consummate soldier, but a man who would cross all of Hell and half of New York City to pay a debt for good or ill. And all the more so to exact justice forhis soldiers. Dickson's prose can be a little pompous and overbearing-- his treatment of villains a little dismissive, mere stick figures lacking depth. But then he wants Graeme to be overpowering-- to his advesaries, to the helpless bystander cops, and to the reader.

Message to an Alien Keith Laumer is a Nebula Award writer who is porbably undervalued today. His Retief stories are based on his experiecnes as a military attache in Burma. His Bolo stories were part of the inspiration for Drake's Slammers. This story is about the lone and disgraced soldier who was turned out for being righter than his superiorsthe civillian authorities could ever admit. He acts alone again and totally without anyone else's support to nip an invasion in the bud and stop a war. Laumer's disdain those with authority but lacking the sense to use it shows through. Dalton's mastery of the situation, the authoirites, and of the invaders is a pleasure to read.

. . . Not a Prison Make Martino's novelette is based on the unique premise of guerilla warfare carried out by low technology aborigines. He builds the story thoroughly, exploring the occupying forces attempts to mount an affect defence. The key is to force to the negotiating table people who have no interest in negotiations. The solution is unique to he situation, and the resolution acceptable to all. The Hero The United States has reached the point in its decadence/decay where it is sometimes more convenient to ignore its veterans and treat them with disdain then to give them the consideration and rewards they deserve. And so it is in "The Hero." Kagan serves honorably and well. When his term of enlistment is up, he demands his desserts, and his superiors balk. Can't conceive of him going to Earth. George R. R. Martin uses overstatement to drive home his point, contrasting the soldier with his bosses. In the end, it's clear that they are as dishonorable as he is honorable, as undeserving of his service as anyone could be.

End Game Joe Haldeman won an award for The Forever War. In the End Game, we find out what it was all for. Time has past. A lot of time has past, and Man is more like the Taurans than veterans like Marygay and William. There's a place for people like them called Middle Finger, heh heh. Anyone familiar with The Forever War knows Haldeman is a great writer, that he despises the stupidity and waste of war, and that he makes his case very well.