RogerBW's Blog

Fortune's Stroke, David Drake and Eric Flint 14 December 2021

2001 alternate-history war story, fourth of six books. Belisarius delays the Malwa's best general in the Zagros Mountains to stop him reaching Mesopotamia; his wife Antonina forges an alliance with the Axumites.

It's still a middle volume, but it's a better one compared with book three. Rather than just another iteration of "they invaded and we stopped them", there's a deliberate call forward to Stalingrad (which Belisarius knows about thanks to his ally from the future): with a particular army destroyed, this will be the Malwa's high point, and the rest of the war will be beating them back. (One suspects it's more from the carnage wreaked on their logistics trains then from the actual battles.)

All right, it could still be summarised as "the good guys win"; that's just what this series is about. The Malwa's two smart generals are back, and working together, but even that isn't enough to out-think Belisarius, and indeed he ends up getting one of them to think that he could start a coup at home. Also, lots of new relationships get started, because everyone must be paired off (though usually that sort of thing gets left to the final book). In general there's more politics and less battle than before, no bad thing since every battle still ends with "good guys win" and there's more room for subtlety in politics.

I think there's a misinterpretation of the qanat system (my understanding is that the vertical shafts that link to the sloping tunnels are for maintenance, rather than in regular use as wells, not that this affects the plot), and obviously the authors' fingers are very much on the scales, but mostly there's still a sense of fun here. Volume four of six obviously isn't the place to start, but while it's essentially the recipe as before there's enough changed to keep things interesting.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Previous in series: Destiny's Shield | Series: Belisarius | Next in series: The Tide of Victory

  1. Posted by J Michael Cule at 11:59am on 14 December 2021

    Gosh, did that series really come out twenty years ago?

    I feel old.

    I can also report that after a while all mil-sf/fantasy tends to blend into one eminently skippable generic narrative. While Hornblower and Maturin remain clear in my mind the space battle and alternate history slaughters get mulched together as they decay.

    This may be due to my having read the naval sagas when I was younger of course.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 12:43pm on 14 December 2021

    "Twenty years ago? Nonsense, it was in 2001. Oh."

    To me good milfic (i.e. milfic that I like; I'm not pretending to set standards for anyone else here) is primarily about the people, like any good fiction. It's about the people in military situations, sure, but it's that person's experience of that situation, whether we're looking at a grunt in the trenches or the greatest general in the world winning a battle.

    So one could write a fictional treatment of the Battle of Jutland, say, but to appeal to me it would have to start with an interesting character – rather than making up random flat characters as an excuse to regurgitate one's research. If I want the raw facts I'll read an actual history book. I don't want the raw facts about unreal history: I want to know how the people react when they learn the facts.

  3. Posted by Dr Bob at 04:53pm on 14 December 2021

    I'm with Roger. I'd read some milfic when young and dismissed the genre for years because it was all cardboard characters and info dumps of ballistics porn. Then I read a short story by Harold Coyle and went "Hang on, this has actual people in it!". So I picked up a novel of his from the local bookshop (one of the early Scott Dixon ones), and loved the way that there were viewpoint characters from all sides in the conflict, and all of them thought they were doing the right thing.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1