Category Archives: Military Sci Fi

Radiation Angels: The Chimerium Gambit by James Daniel Ross

  Radiation Angels: The Chimerium GambitReviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

How will wars be fought in the future? Ask James Daniel Ross, author of the page-turning and immensely entertaining MilSF novel, Radiation Angels: The Chimerium Gambit (RA:TCG), and he will likely be able to give you a very good idea of what it will be like. There will probably be mercenary companies involved, like the Radiation Angels that he writes about. The Radiation Angels, like all mercenaries, are in the business of war for the money; but, they also are supposed to be the “good guys,” of the series, so they presumably won’t hire themselves out to just anyone. Still, not everyone who hires them necessarily has their best interests at heart….

As the novel opens, the Radiation Angels are being employed by a planetary faction who desires to overthrow the current government, which has a president, somewhat like America’s, but more extreme and militaristic. The Radiation Angels are led by Captain Todd Rook. He and the rest of the Radiation Angels are operating under the terms of a contract, and they have mere hours to locate the president and capture him if they want to earn a bonus on top of their regular pay and the spoils of war they might obtain along the way. Their current boss is reluctant to offer them any further help, like backup. She is a stickler, not wanting the operation to cost any more money than is absolutely necessary, even if the going might be made easier for the Radiation Angels.

Ross constructs a suspenseful, tense story, where we follow the Radiation Angels in their quest through the labyrinthine hallways and rooms of an industrial complex in their search for the president. They don’t only have to contend with the booby-traps and forces of the president and his military might, but also other deadly mercenary groups who want to reach the prize before them.

By Other Means (Defending the Future Series Book Three) by Mike McPhail

By Other MeansReviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

If you enjoy reading Military Science Fiction (MilSF), and want to check out the best short stories by some of today’s most renowned MilSF authors, then the anthology By Other Means (Defending the Future series Book Three) is definitely for you! I have read & reviewed the first two anthologies in the Defending the Future series, Breach the Hull and So It Begins, and really liked the short stories in it, and By Other Means continues in this trend. The only difference that I can see is perhaps a thematic one, as many of the stories in By Other Means are related to achieving minor or major victories over foes not necessarily through raging battles, but by–as the title suggests–other means. I can’t get into each of the fifteen excellent stories in the collection, but I’ll touch on a few of the anthology’s highlights.

By Other Means opens with “Mother of Peace,” by James Chambers. Something went horribly wrong with the Centry program, which wedded mobile weapons of war with human brains of soldiers who died in battle and still wanted to continue at least a partial sort of existence and serve their country. All of the human brain-directed machines shut down at the same time, and this resulted in prolonging a lengthy and costly war. Dr. Bell (one of the original scientists behind the Centry program), Corporal Dolan, Sergeant Tanner, and the telepathic being Calypso try to locate one of the machines and figure out why it and the others stopped, and how to reactivate them. If possible, her main objective is to find not just any of the Centry machines, but one that houses the brain of Captain Bowman, who was the love of her life. None of their individual nor collective lives, to Dr. Bell, is as important as reactivating the Centry machines and bringing about an end to the war.

The second story is “Cybermarine” by Bud Sparhawk. This is somewhat similar to the first story, in that soldiers at the very point of death have the option to continue to serve their countries, but not in mobile machines. Instead, they are given new seven-foot-tall bodies, with multiple eyes that can see different ranges of light. They are stronger than the other soldiers, and are kept segregated from the rest of the crew in general because of their rather monstrous appearances. The first-person narrator relates some of the ways they help in battle, and the story shifts between the chasing down of an enemy spaceship and its attempted capture, and what happens to the narrator when he has to face the decision to become a cybermarine, himself. “Winslow, Harold,” is a cybermarine who the narrator is especially struck with, and who influences the narrator’s ultimate decision.

So It Begins (Defending the Future, Book 2) by Mike McPhail

So It BeginsReviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Where can you go to find the best of the best in MilSF? For great MilSF short stories by the top authors of today, look no further than the anthology So It Begins (Book Two in the Defending the Future Series) edited by Mike McPhail, who just happens to have an entry in this collection himself, the inimitable and way cool offering “Cling Peaches.”. There are sixteen short stories in the anthology, if you include the superlative “Surrender Or Die,” a bonus story by David Sherman, written by fifteen authors. Charles E. Gannon has two stories in So It Begins (as I’ll call the anthology from here on out through this review), both very good ones, “Recidivism,” which opens the book, and “To Spec.” One of the features I really like about the anthology is that there is a section called Author Bios at the end of the book, before the Bonus Content story, so you can read about the authors and what they’ve written and learn more about them if you’re unfamiliar with them.

I can’t get super in-depth and give a detailed analysis of each of the short stories unless I make this review prohibitively long, but I truly enjoyed reading each of the MilSF short stories in the anthology, so I will mention at least a little bit about a few of the tales, to give you a taste of the literary banquet you have in store for yourselves when you read this collection. I’ve briefly mentioned four already, and in just one paragraph, so I’m doing fairly well…except for this expository paragraph, anyway. But, there’s “brief” mentions of short stories, and then there’s brief mentions–which means nothing, except that I’m going to go back to the four I’ve already mentioned, write a few more sentences about each, then cover a few of the other tales.

MilSF novels and stories with lots of blood, guts, and action are kickass, and I generally rank ones with tons of these three elements in them as my faves. But, I likes me a good story that zigs when you think it should zag, or funny or quirky ones, also. That’s why “Cling Peaches,” is one of my favorite tales in the anthology. The title alone made me wonder what in the world it could be about and made me want to read it. Then, the search by the two main characters of the story, Chief Engineer William Donovich and a tech called Patterson for an alien stowaway who has a liking for cling peaches in heavy syrup, was tense and at times humorous and held my rapt attention throughout its entirety.

Charles E. Gannon’s two short stories were also impressive. “Recidivism,” is a gem about Dan, “a data entry clerk with no reasonable hope for advancement,” who in his doctoral proposal dared to suggest that aliens might one day try to take over his planet and possibly even sterilize its inhabitants, should they not cooperate peacefully. Nobody believes him, until one day when…. “To Spec,” Gannon’s second tale, involves a soldier in the ExoAtmospheric Corps who guards a Big Secret without knowing what it is, and he’s eaten up with curiosity to find out what it is he’s risking his life for. He starts putting two and two together, and…well, math was never my strong suit, but I know that, in this case, “two and two,” add up to a great story about one of the many ways that could potentially spell Doomsday: CME, or: “A coronal mass ejection.”