A group of people are shown take the oath to become U.S. citizens in this picture from Reuters.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012


This is a book of sci-fi stories by authors who were in the military. It opens with an epigraph from Heinlein’s Starship Troopers:

“…What it is the moral difference, if any, between the soldier and the civilian?” “The difference…lies in the field of civic virtue. A soldier accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic or which he is a member, defending it, if need be, with his life. The civilian does not.”

Now there are some possible quibbles with that assessment, especially as it regards the young, the old, and the infirm, but as a general statement it has a high degree of truth.

The fifteen stories come from what is generally considered to be the golden age of science fiction. Authors represented include Heinlein, Clarke, Murray Leinster, Gene Wolfe, and others.

Field Test by Keith Laumer is one of his Bolo stories, and has an instance of a machine who has absorbed human values.

Allamagoosa by Eric Frank Russell isa story of bureaucracy in space.

Exploration Team by Murray Leinster is about a renegade space exploration. It’s one of the longer stories, and comes in at about 40 pages.

Superiority by Arthur C. Clarke is a classic story about how technological superiority does not always convert to military superiority. Some might read this and think of the American adventure in Vietnam, or the Soviets in Afghanistan, or Americans in Iraq, and while it is true that primitive peoples in Vietnam and Afghanistan did obtain their political goals over stronger military powers, it’s not necessarily the case that the victory was a military one. Again, while an IED can damage or destroy a Bradley, the ultimate victory is not to the side with the most expensive weapons, but the one that secures both its military and political objectives.

The Horars of War by Gene Wolfe is another one that explores humans and robots in combat.

Fireproof by Hal Clement is a story about sabotage aboard a space station.

Peace With Honor by Jerry Pournelle is about the lengths to which it might be necessary to go to secure peace.

Under the Hammer by David Drake is one of his stories in the Hammer’s Slammers series about tanks in space.

Time Piece by Joe Haldeman is apparently set in the same universe as The Forever War. I read The Forever War back in 1976 or so, and was not impressed by it.

Niether Sleet, Nor Snow, Nor Alien Invasion by Dave Freer is a fairly recent story, and is very un-PC and fairly funny. A postman staves off an alien invasion through sexual harassment.

Light by Kacey Grannis is a story by a serving member of the armed forces.

The Question by Patrick Vanner is about the start of a military conflict between earth and a race of catlike beings. It’s fairly funny.

The Price by Micheal Z. Williamson is also a fairly recent story. This one is about following orders.

Earth’s First Improved Chimp Gets a Job as a Janitor by John Ringo is about a genetically modified chimp who is also a first rate soldier.

The Long Watch by Robert A. Heinlein is a classic about duty, love of country, and all of the stuff that is so out of fashion with current thinking.

If you’ve already got most of the stories here you might not be interested in this, but if the stories are new to you, you’ll probably enjoy most of them.

Next up, David Weber’s new book, A Rising Thunder.