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The Frisian Defence Forces were formed from a core of 'Hammers Slammers', a mercenary heavy tank unit. Under their President and Colonel, Alois Hammer, part of the cost of maintaining these troops is recouped by utilising then as mercenaries on other worlds. All promotions are earned in combat not time served. The force has tanks, armoured combat cars, infantry, logistics and intelligence branches.
The team. Major Matthew Cook aged 34 standard years, brown hair, greenish blue eyes, 6 ft tall and lean as a blade. Officer commanding the survey team. His last mission had ended in failure and he had expected to be sacked if not shot.
Lt Mary Marguiles. Stocky build with long black hair. This her only affectation. She is recovering from two broken legs received in combat and thinks she may be retired. She has a debt she thinks she has to pay to the man who saved her life when the combat situation went bad.
Captain Sten Moden, logistics, is a giant of a man. Immensely strong who also qualifies as 100% disabled as he lost his left arm in an accident involving the storage of explosives. He also thinks he screwed up and is looking for a chance to make reparations, though he isn’t quite sure who to.
Technician II Nico Daun is a short slight man. Expert in the use and maintenance of all sorts of surveillance and electronic material, he has had a bad experience with local troops on a previous assignment. So bad he refuses to serve with them again.
Sgt Johann Vierziger, military police detachment, is a short, dainty, choirboy looking, natural killer.An expert with either pistol or sub machine gun. Cold, hard and merciless he worries even tough professionals. He also has his own demons to fight. (He may well be a Major Joachim Steuben who was also a natural, friendless killer for Alois Hammer in the early days. He proved to be just too good at his job and was apparently shot in the back.)
Lt Robert Barbour is an information specialist, by analysis he can determine size, composition and position of an enemy force. It's seeing the results of his skill that troubles him.
All are combat veterans.
The Mission. Cantilucca is the planet that Gage, a popular drug comes from. Gage is preferred as it has no bad side effects when pure, so it commands a high price. However the main growing regions are under the control of two competing gangs. Naturally the best stuff goes for export. The residue, which is poisonous and makes a person crazy is left for the locals. The teams’ mission is to see if it is worth them hiring troops from The Frisian forces. The people just do not know what is about to hit them. On a world over run with rabid dogs, a wolf pack has arrived.
This is a military science fiction work by David Drake, the Vietnam veteran turned author.
To start this work we are introduced to each team member by means of a small back story before the action on planet starts. In that I find that there are similarities to the Japanese film "Yogimbo" of 1961 that formed the basis of the film "Fistful of dollars” of 1964. The similarities are a town where two competing syndicates vie for control of a lucrative drugs market. The difference is here we have a six person team rather than a single individual. There are certain other similarities in the plot also, but you will have to read it to find them.
This isn't a story about a clash of armies. There is some combat and killing involved and some is fairly graphic as well. There isn't any gratuitous sex involved, sex does rear its head into the story but it is discreetly handled.
The major weapon involved in these stories is what they call a power gun. A gun that is used to convert a small amount of matter into a plasma that is fired at near light speed. This has no kinetic shock but will transfer a vast amount of energy when the bolt hits the target. Pistols and sub machine guns are 1cm, rifle equivalent are 2cm. Because of the rather large energy involved the barrels of the weapons have to be made of iridium, and even that will wear out with frequent use. They will be glowing white hot after just a few shots. Holsters need to be made of heat resistant materials for pistols. Sometimes the troops will wear a clamshell body armour of special ceramic which can absorb some shots, enough to save a life perhaps.
Other weapons like rockets and conventional pistols, rifles and even multi barrelled weapons make their appearance. What is noticeable is that it isn't the weapon that makes the difference, it's the person using it. A mob can be defeated by a small disciplined force.
Certain of the weapons described in these stories are far beyond our present technology. Sometimes I doubt we will ever develop them. But they do make for a very interesting story. But it could just as easily be blades as the Kurosawa film showed.
The people are all well developed persons. Each is readily understandable, if not likeable. The various others are equally understandable. Some are greedy, some are desperate, some are good people caught in a bad situation.
The town where most of the action takes place is one where law has not settled. Men with guns rule and everybody else had better understand that. Many buildings are ramshackle fortress structures,made of any material that may stop a bullet. It's a mess of bars, brothels, gambling and drug dens. Many of the locals live with the fear of the swaggering gunmen and others who are trying to have a 'good time'. They hate what is happening but do not have the necessary strength to oppose the gangsters.
Each of the people in this team is looking for a sort of redemption for past errors, a chance to put matters right. I won't say if they achieved that or not. Again you would have to read the story. I have my own ideas on that score.
If the story has a message at all it is that although gangsters can be scary when they are let loose with guns, they cannot beat disciplined forces for concentrated deadliness. Its easy to shoot, but its knowing where and when that matters more.
This is not a new book in that it was published way back in 1993. As such you can be certain of getting a variety of copies in the used marketplace. You may even find a pristine new copy if you want to search. As such Amazon has prices listed from £0.01 used hardcover to £3.99 paperback.
You may possibly find some new editions in specialist shops, I doubt that there will be any in the main street shops, so search for the best bargain to suit your self.
So do I recommend this. Yes, it is a sharp, fast paced read that hasn't dated despite its date of publication.