RogerBW's Blog

Andromeda's Choice, William C. Dietz 06 January 2019

2013 military science fiction, eleventh novel in the Legion of the Damned series (and second in the prequel sub-series). "McKee" is still hiding from the usurper Empress, but after winning the fight in the previous book she has to go to Earth to get a medal… and she might well be recognised.

Particularly if she is extremely stupid and still has a tattoo that she wore when she was Cat Carletto, well-known socialite. Oh dear. (Even though the CSI-in-a-box robots somehow never recognise her.) Still, this is a very low-tech future apart from the spaceships and robots (sometimes I think that this kind of milsf author might be happier writing about Vietnam) and perhaps they don't have tattoo removal. (Someone has an "HF/VHF man pack radio that allowed the squad to stay in contact with the FOB", though to be fair there's never an explicit mention of how far that is.)

There's also bad cosmology, with a planet with a local day of two hours and forty-two minutes… but the only effect this has is to justify the equatorial mountain range, since none of the local life seems to notice.

Anyway, apart from having to murder people who recognise her, make contact with the local resistance with the express purpose of passing on some information that should help them, then get into a snit after she fails to do her job in an assassination attempt and thus not passing on the files, Earth is uneventful; soon it's on to this book's war, which is on that fast-spinning planet, against feline aliens who have apparently built their culture on Native American cliché. There are the compulsory Zulu moments when a few soldiers are outnumbered dozens or hundreds to one, but this time there are also incompetent, venial and cowardly officers just to make life more exciting for the poor bloody grunts.

And the terribly tense sequence where McKee realises that to check a secret list she's storing on a high-tech USB stick, she's got to use a public terminal, and disable both its wired and wireless network connections. Because nobody setting up terminals for soldiers to use, and going to the trouble of logging their network activity, would also log what the terminal did when disconnected from the network and forward it later. No, surely not.

The book's not trying to be more than big dumb entertainment, and mostly it succeeds, but one has to lower one's standards a lot to enjoy it. Particularly when one of the low-level informers looking into McKee for the imperial secret police is killed by a deus ex machina. What the book is supposedly doing is telling the story of how Cat works to bring down the Empress: but apart from a few tentative explorations in that direction, the story is entirely absent from this book, lost under the extruded milsf product. It's reasonably good extruded milsf product, but dammit there's supposed to be an ongoing plot here.

Followed by Andromeda's War; unless the quality of that one picks up a lot, I'm unlikely to read the longer series of which this is an offshoot.

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Previous in series: Andromeda's Fall | Series: Legion of the Damned | Next in series: Andromeda's War

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