Neither stainless white knights nor bloodthirsty killers, the Slammers are competent professionals, with recognizable human flaws, engaged in a deadly business. Their interanl conflicts, set against vivid scenes of battle, make their stories exciting and compelling. This is the second of the three volume set presenting for the first time the entire genre-defining Slammers series in uniform Omni-trade paperback volumes, with new intoductions by major SF figures and new afterwords by David Drake. Each volume will also include a Slmmers story not collected in previous Slammer's books.
Drake, a Vietnam vet who served in the Blackhorse Regiment, use prose as cold and hard as the metal alloy of a tank to portray the men and women of Hammer's Regiment In his depicition of combat, Drake rivals Crane and Remarque.
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Yet there are characters, situations, and of course equipment that carry over across the stories, providing a solid pull from tale to tale. Central to the collection is the eponymous Colonel Alois Hammer, the commander of the mercenary tank regiment that bears his name. A brilliant military leader who is also skilled in political maneuvering, Hammer is a wonderfully flawed yet admirable leader who formed the mercenary unit to fill the niche needs of his home world.
To say too much more is to give away some of the adventure, but it is important to note that Hammer is not the main character of most of these stories.
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Indeed, while he is a presence in most of them, the vast majority of tales focus on other characters, many of them making one off appearances even though they serve as the point-of-view character for the tale they are in. What works so well about this is that when we do see him as a main character, we see his flaws and strengths all the more vividly.
Just as significant a presence in the stories are the tanks and other vehicles that the unit uses. True to any classic tale of Military Science Fiction, the gear has a central place in the series, so much so that there are chapters spliced between the stories that are dedicated to the equipment.
While it is possible for such explanatory chapters to break up the flow of a book, here they add to the stories, giving us insight and depth. To that end, the Supertanks are central to the book, almost serving as characters in and to themselves.
High computerized with an impressive array of firepower and informational displays, the tanks are one part tank and one part hovercraft. While there are times where this approach pushes the limits of my ability to suspend disbelief due to the innate vulnerabilities of hovercrafts , the far future aspect of the setting allows me to push those aside. Second to the tanks are the hovercraft combat cars that feature in many of the tales.
Fascinating and exciting, these faster, more versatile but infinitely less deadly vehicles are described with no less detail and appear in the series long before the tanks themselves. Other equipment such as powerguns and the like are outlined in the book, building an interesting and believable world into which one can immerse oneself. As for the stories themselves, as with all such collections, some of the tales are better than others, yet there are no real failures. It focuses on the first encounter of a young recruit to the armored mercenary unit that gives the book its name.
While its heavy use of jargon may prove a bit of a turn off to some readers, it remains one of the best military science fiction stories ever told.watch
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After this installment, subsequent stories are a bit less jargon heavy, and the writing flows far better, yet of all the tales it is the first and the last in this book that stand out most strongly in my memory. I will note, however, that certain thread tales throughout the book are brought to a remarkable end with the last short story in this volume.
To that end, this collection does something that very few manage — not only does it have a solid arch through its wide range of short stories, it also allows one to feel a sense of completion at the end of the volume despite the fact that there are subsequent volumes and novels in the collection as a whole.
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