When last we left our chisel-cheeked pert-buttocked hero, he was the semi-willing thrall of a seductive vampire queen, and he was industriously fulfilling the job’s two requirements: driving just the right kind of stake into her, um, heart whenever she demanded it, and acclimating himself to lots and lots of bondage-on-demand. And at the skilled hands of writer Joey Hill, that particular job was becoming steamy hot – including a later volume in the series in which Paul is caressing his vampire queen while several duplicate Paul’s caress her (and perhaps each other?) also. A person could become understandably flustered.
And if our Pauly did become flustered, he certainly reacted the way we all have at one time or another in our lives: he up and joined the space militia.
His first choice was the 26th century United Authority Marines in Steven Kent’s rip-snortingly good series of Clone Republic novels – The Clone Republic, Rogue Clone, The Clone Alliance, and The Clone Elite. In these books, Paul goes by the nom de guerre of Wayson Harris, who’s a clone with a lemon twist – he’s got a mind of his own, and so he’s got a price on his head.
The books follow Wayson through a nonstop series of adventures facing off both against human extremists and nasty alien invaders, and through it all, Steven Kent gives us lively dialogue and some fantastic action-sequences. The niche of military science fiction is one I’ve yet to explore here, at least not to an extent that would mirror the sheer enjoyment I’ve derived from that niche since David Drake was a hippie and Gordie Dickson would do readings for beer. I’ll get to it one of these days, but in the meantime, those of you who like military sci-fi could do a lot worse than to seek out this author’s books, where tense exchanges like this one are the order of the day:
“If General Glade thinks you’re something special, that’s his problem, asshole!” Moffat continued. “You got that? You may have friends in high places, but I have friends of my own, asshole. Do you hear me? You try to make yourself a hero again, and I will flatten you into a specking statistic. I will turn you into K.I.A. roadkill so fast you won’t have time to wet yourself.” As he said this, he placed a hand on my shoulder.
He should not have put his hand on me. Now I found myself angered to the point that I began to have a Liberator combat reflex. The hormone was beginning to flow through my blood, soothing me and pushing me to attack at the same time. Struggling to keep my temper in check, I brushed Moffat’s hand from my sleeve. “I’ll keep that in mind,” I growled, still hoping to keep my growing need for violence in check.
When the fending off of other men’s advances became too much for Paul – when he could no longer keep his needs in check – he left the U. A. Marines and shipped out with the Macht, a mysterious, mountain-bred race of warriors on the world of Kuf, in Paul Kearney’s gripping, fantastic novel The Ten Thousand (gotta love a classical reference, especially made by somebody smart enough to realize that Xenophon is, in fact, the father of military science fiction). Here we call him Phiron, the commander of a unit of Macht hired by Prince Arkamenes of the Asurian Empire to make war on Arkamenes’ brother the Great King and take his kingdom from him. Arkamenes is that staple of military science fiction – the courtly fop who doesn’t at first understand the sublime coolness of the men he hires. He has all the low opinions of the Macht that you’d expect from such a figure:
“Well, Phiron, what plan is this you’ve hatched for me now?”
Phiron stepped out of the brisk-marching column. He wore his cuirass and carried a spear. Like all the Macht, he stored his shield and helm in the wagons while on the march. He was growing a beard; Arkamenes thought it did not suit him, but then no Kefren noble grew hair on his face. What an ugly race, he thought. So stubborn and steadfast, so small in mind, unprepossessing. They might be brothers to the Juthan, were it not for their colouring. And yet, these hairy, ugly little creatures were the stuff of Asurian legend. Deep down, Arkamenes knew full well that no Kefren army, not even the Great King’s Honai, could have come out of that river and broken the enemy line as these things had. There was an implacability about them that had to be seen to be believed. His money had been well spent.
Readers of this sort of thing will catch echoes of everything from the Sardaukar of Dune to the Dorsai of Gordon Dickson, but then, science fiction done well is a homage-heavy genre. The point is, Kearney’s stuff is done well, so the echoes honor their sources.
Well, that’s one point. Another – and surely more important – point is that when some effete nobleman can call our Paul an “ugly little creature,” it’s clear that our hero has strayed very far from his natural habitats. It’s fairly clear he was seeking out anonymity by joining the ranks of the space cadets, but what anonymity can there be for one so shapely? It bespeaks a fundamental confusion when a lodestar of so many female (and perhaps a few male? Can such things be?) fantasies should attempt to cross the road and find solace in science fiction. And to his credit, Paul eventually realizes this. When next we meet him, he’ll be on far more natural terrain.