Tuesday, December 02, 2008

REVIEW: When Diplomacy Fails

Title: When Diplomacy Fails
Editors: Eric Flint and Mike Resnick
Genre: Science fiction, anthology
Price: $30
Publisher / Point of Sale: ISFIC Press
ISBN: 978-0-9759156-6-0
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

ISFIC Press is the official publishing arm of “Illinois Science Fiction in Chicago, Inc.” a fan-owned company whose primary function is putting on Windycon, a Chicago-area science fiction convention. Since I’m a Chicago-based science fiction fan, I attend Windycon, and take the opportunity to buy their annual release every year. This year’s release, and my personal vote for “Coolest Cover Evah,” is the anthology When Diplomacy Fails. As a reader of military science fiction, I was familiar with some of the stories in this collection, but for those looking for a board introduction to the sub-genre, the nine gems in this story are exquisite.

So, here’s my brief overview of the stories:

A Ship Named Francis – (John Ringo and Victor Mitchell). Ringo is not known for his short stories, but here he’s turned in something of a rarity – a humorous science fiction story. Set in the “Honor Harrington Universe” (think “Horatio Hornblower with warp drives) the titular ship is home to a collection of misfits and problem soldiers. It’s an entertaining jaunt in what is usually a darker genre.

The Day of Glory – (David Drake). Drake is famous for working through the demons of his Vietnam service by telling the tales of his future mercenaries, Hammer’s Slammers, and this short story is an above-average example of those works. In The Day of Glory, Drake exposes the reality of modern combat, and pulls away any sheen of heroism or valor.

Not That Kind of War – (Tanya Huff). Ms. Huff was a Master Corporal in the Canadian Forces Navy (explaining that rank is another article) and she felt that the enlisted side of military life got short shrift. So, she invented Sergeant Torin Kerr, a female Space Marine who gets paid to keep her officers out of trouble. Having been an officer once, I can assure you we need that. At any rate, the short story here is a great example of her four-novel and counting military SF series.

In The Navy – (David Weber) You’d think that a guy who invented and wrote some twenty-odd books in the Honor Harrington universe would write a short story in that universe. You’d be wrong. In The Navy is set in Eric Flint’s fascinating “1632” series. Basically, in this world a West Virginia coalmining village gets magically sent back to 1632 Europe. Since the Thirty Year’s War is raging at the time, to say our villagers find themselves hip-deep in trouble is an understatement.

The Burning Spear at Twilight – (Mike Resnick). Mike is a great expert and fan of things African, and here he tells his version of how Jomo Kenyatta won Kenyan independence. It’s interesting and not at all favorable to Western media.

Straw – (Gene Wolfe). I’m not a big fan of fantasy, but this short tale of swordsmen traveling by hot-air balloon was quite entertaining.

Encounter – (Steven Leigh) Encounter is a example of another sub-branch of military SF, namely the putting together of things after war has blown them apart. The encounter of the title is between two old enemies of a past war.

Black Tulip – (Harry Turtledove) Turtledove’s novel Every Inch A King is sitting on my to-be-read pile (payoff for schlepping food to the ISFIC launch party at the con). In the meantime, I made do with this entertaining story set during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Fanatic - (Eric Flint) This story, at almost 100 pages long, is practically a short novel. It’s also set in the Honor Harrington universe, and does something I’ve not seen, namely make the revolutionaries of the People’s Republic of Haven sympathetic. Considering Flint's personal political views, that maybe should not be a surprise. Fanatic is actually a stealth mystery, so I can’t say much about it, other than to suggest that the reader pay close attention to everything.

Overall, this is an outstanding anthology of military SF. If you have any interest in the subject at all, order When Diplomacy Fails today.

RATING 10/10

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