RogerBW's Blog

Andromeda's Fall, William C. Dietz 19 December 2018

2012 military science fiction, tenth novel in the Legion of the Damned series (but first in the prequel sub-series, which is why I'm reading it first). Catherine Carletto is the spoiled daughter of industrialist nobles. But when the Emperor's sister assassinates the Emperor and takes over, she purges all his supporters. Cat will have to grow up fast just to stay alive, never mind getting her revenge.

Yes, I'm doing it again, starting a very popular military SF series with high hopes. I really liked Mike Shepherd's Mutineer, though I seem to have come to a stop after four books; and I didn't entirely hate Jean Johnson's A Soldier's Duty, though I'm not planning to read even book 2 of it any time soon. This is an addition to Dietz's Legion of the Damned series, the main story of which is finished after nine books, but from what I can see it doesn't share much beyond the general setting; this book takes place something like 150 years before the main series.

In some respects this follows the standard mil-sf pattern, though the boot camp section is mercifully short; it does feel as if the training has been minimal, but it's there, just not described in detail, so that we can get on with the real action. Cat, under the name Andromeda McKee, signs up with the Legion to escape the Empress's assassins (human and "synth", i.e. AI-driven robots), as well as to learn to fight; of course, she has a natural aptitude for being a fighting soldier (and gets promoted repeatedly), though her family background in building synths turns out to be quite handy too; and she picks up a devoted war buddy who gets all the gossip. Still, she's not as Mary Sue as some milsf protagonists (particularly the women for some reason): she's had to give up essentially all her material goods, and she manages to avoid having a bizarre hair colour (though she does end up with a Distinctive Facial Scar).

The writing is workmanlike and unchallenging, with a few odd moments:

"You can expect to put out six hundred rounds per minute in the sustained-fire mode—and two thousand rounds per minute in the three-round-burst mode."

What I think this means is that, in three-round-burst mode, the rifle cycles through ammunition very much faster than it will in full automatic, but it only fires the three rounds and then stops; so you can't actually shoot two thousand bullets in a minute. Maybe the intended audience understands this kind of thing in detail already, and it's just a signifier that the writer Knows His Guns.

It's a weirdly primitive future: many milsf authors prefer bullets over beams, and there are reasonable justifications for that, but in this world with artificial gravity and androids that think as well as people, a newspaper is still a thing that you buy and later drop in a bin. There are cyborg soldiers (brain pods made from the injured or executed), and some of them are placed in aircraft and such like, but most of them are in large human-shaped bodies: too big to use human-scaled equipment, though they have their own large guns, and employed mostly as cavalry mounts, each with a saddle for a human riding on their back. I find it hard to conceive of the military process that would regard this as a good idea.

There are clear good guys and bad guys at every step, and their morality always lines up with the group they're a part of, but at least those groups aren't intrinsically good or bad based on who they're ultimately working for. All right, it's pretty much the Legion that's an outlier here, as otherwise in the major conflict of the book it's the anti-Empress rebels and natives (good) versus the new government and the synths (bad). At least there's another faction, the aliens who invade without really caring about human conflicts, though less is done with this than might be.

There's nothing exceptional here; it's all quite familiar if you've read much military SF before. But it feels plausibly realistic, and it manages to avoid the more hateful end of milsf politics; I enjoyed it without ever coming close to regarding it as an important book. This book won't surprise or enlighten you but I don't think it aspires to; it's plain entertainment and doesn't try to be anything more. Followed by Andromeda's Choice.

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  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 03:25pm on 21 December 2018

    Yeah I read this one and it was okay but I was not inspired to read the 2nd in the series. I've read 2 of the Legion of the Damned series and will probably stop there for that series.

    I think that instead of trying book 1 of too many mil sf series, I need to glut on the ones I really like. Until I reach the 'series has run out of steam' point. Then dump the series for another one!

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 03:56pm on 21 December 2018

    I'm trying to find a series I really like… to be fair I've still got some recommendations from you on my to-read pile.

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