Monday, August 8, 2011

Author Review: John Ringo 2

Last week, I mentioned the author John Ringo.  He does several genres -- science fiction, thrillers, speculative fiction, and a bit of fantasy.

And you can get most of his novels for free.  Right here.  100% legal.

Last week, I had briefly covered his fantasy novel Princess of Wands, this time, let's try something a little different.

Prince Roger / Empire of Man

The Anabassis is an old story.  It's also known as the story of the ten thousand.  It's translated as "The March Up."

The original story is about ten thousand Greek mercenaries who went to work for a Persian king.  Unfortunately, their employer lost, and they were stranded in the middle of enemy territory.  Their only hope was to march, northward, to the sea.
March Upcountry

This is the John Ringo version.

So, of course, John Ringo (writing off of a very heavy outline by veteran author David Weber), called his first novel in the series "March Upcountry."  And the second book is  March to the Sea.

However, instead of ten thousand mercenaries, Ringo starts with Prince Roger, the tertiary heir to the "Throne of Man," an Earth Empire that is based in Washington DC.

March to the Sea (March Upcountry)And Prince Roger is a royal bastard.

And I mean that literally.

Roger is the unwanted heir.  He acts out, has no sense of his place in the empire, feels like a waste, and every time he wants to say something noble and diplomatic, it comes out as a whine.  He's like a teenager permanently stuck in the awkward stage.

Which means that Roger's bodyguards dislike him with a burning passion.

March to the Stars (Prince Roger Series #3)However, when the Empire's enemies, known simply as "the Saints," try to assassinate him by blowing up his ship, Roger and his bodyguards are marooned on the backwater, the hostile planet of Marduk.  The terrain is hostile, half the population is hostile, and -- oh, yeah, did we mention that the tropical humidity makes the plasma rifles explode?  What do you expect when they're produced by the lowest bidder?

And, one more thing: there's only one spaceport, it's about eight months march and an ocean away, and it may be held by the people who had just tried to kill Roger and his people.

We Few (March Upcountry)You can never say that Ringo makes it easy on his characters.

On the one hand, it's a growing experience for Prince Roger. He's going to grow up, or die.  On the other, what does he grow up into?  And, should he make it out of there alive, what will the empire look like after he's gone for who knows how long?

One of the interesting things about this series is how Ringo plays it. Not only does he have  several fully developed cultures, as well as an assortment of futuristic weapons, but -- due to the plasma weapons blowing up -- comes up with a great way to limit him and his men to local weaponry.  So, as they march across the planet, they go from fighting like Roman legionnaires, to medieval warfare, to a battle that looks like it came out of the Napoleonic wars of Richard Sharpe.

At the end of the day, this might be one of John Ringos best series, and the least political.  The only politics in the entire novel involve local, tribal politics of the planet Marduk, and (very briefly) of the Empire Roger is heir to. It mostly focuses on strong character, and it even keeps up as the actions sequences are ongoing.  And, while Ringo focuses heavily on infantry, even his space battles are well-done, and reminiscent of David Weber or Timothy Zahn.

All-in-all, it's fun. And, it's free. 

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