Saturday, 9 July 2016
HARD SCI FI REVIEW: LEGION OF THE DAMNED BY WILLIAM C. DIETZ
Legion of the Damned by William C. Dietz
In the future criminals and the terminally ill all have two choices, be executed or join up for the Legion of the Damned These fighters are cyborgs soldiers and humans who have had their bodies changed, and their minds put into huge war machines that will fight off the enemy. This is the first in the series that mixes military science fiction and adventure. It is this series which incidentally started the Andromeda prequel series of novels.
I remember being sent Andromeda's Fall even before I knew about William C. Dietz's novels and the extent of them. I enjoyed reading about a woman protagonist whose family had been given the death blow by another woman, Princess Ophelia who felt she should be the one to rule instead. Her life as she knew it had taken a drastic turn and while other lesser women would have fled and maybe cowered behind a wall to escape the horrors around them, Andromeda decides to fight, and fight she does. I like reading science fiction for the break from real life events, yet I can imagine someone like Andromeda, a woman hurt, and left to pick up the pieces of her life while others go one with theirs unaware a cruel princess is controlling the lives of countless minions.
As the first in the Legion of the Damned series, we get to find out first hand what happens in the far future of warfare to ordinary people and how they fit into the Empire. The overall galactic ruler, the emperor is a peculiar, if indulgent type who has his own needs to satisfy while he views that the people can go to hell. Such an emperor isn't worthy of much praise at all, but he does have the Legion to command at his will. The Legion are a fierce fighting force who know no fear, are part man, part cyborg and all fighting machine in the face of adversity. In this world, the plot surrounds the Legion and their dealings with their enemies, the Hudatha. Dietz's harsh vision of a cruel future comes backed up with several looks at the Legion's strategy against their enemy who appear to be technologically superior to them in many ways. And just in case the science fiction element of battle might have been lost, there are lots of battles here, bloody and intense ones that don't always play out as one would expect. So the reader understands exactly what is going on in the midst of these battles, Dietz explains his tactics and strategy most of the time to good effect as you realise some of the characters are not destined to get much of a word count.
Even though this is a novel set far in the future, sex and women's roles haven't changed much as in here there are still women who will allow themselves to be exploited by men who most women wouldn't entertain outside of a Mills & Boon paperback. Unfortunately, the sex in this is run of the mill and thankfully there isn't too much of it. Dietz sticks to what he is good at, the tactics, fight scenes and battles. The sex doesn't work very well in such a novel, it only serves to be something he included as perhaps it being a man's type of novel he expected to have a few sex scenes in it. Maybe it was an afterthought. He does combine gritty and realistic life concepts with the guns and ammo that goes with them. His concepts for the guns are as one would expect, as are the two different types of cyborgs we get to see up close and personal, the bipedal and the Quads who move the story on to be one of the many heights to the novel. He doesn't go into too much detail about the technology, just enough so that the reader is aware of what it entails and how the cyborgs can use it in their battles.
Dietz lets the reader enjoy and make their mid up about the characters and their development, and doesn't waste time explaining too much about the intricacies of war the way some other writers do. He got together a large enough cast of characters you didn't get bored with, you enjoyed reading about their ups and downs, and with some of them finding out how far they would go to protect their own self interests.
It doesn't matter whether a character is good or bad they have the same chance of dying as the next warrior. I assumed that might be the reason for the huge cast - anyone could die at any moment during a specific battle, so anything goes with this novel.