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Did you think you didn't have to choose?

In a bit of a funk this morning for no particularly good reason; certainly the vague disappointment of having all of last night's plans fall through contributed to that, but on the other hand I sat around reading Ringo & Evans' The Road to Damascus most of the evening so I think it's pretty much of a wash...the book is good, by the way. On the one hand Ringo's distaste for "do as I say, not as I do" social utopians is very much evident, but on the other hand the book avoids the stink of polemic, unlike Watch On The Rhine. Brief review behind the cut.


If you are familiar with Keith Laumer's Bolo stories, and the stories written in that universe after Laumer's death, The Road to Damascus will seem pleasantly familiar, since it's set in the unified timeline of that universe. The protagonist of the story is a Mark XX Bolo, first of the great cybertanks to be fully independent, but by the time of the story somewhat obscolescent next to the more modern Mark XXVIII models bearing the brunt of the three-front war against the Deng and the Melconians. "Sonny" is therefore sent with his commander to what appears to be a backwater, Jefferson's World, and fights a very destructive battle against the invading Deng. So far so good, but that's where the story begins. Unlike most of the other stories set in the Bolo universe, The Road to Damascus places a lone Bolo in a confusing situation of insurrection and civil war, where it is forced to follow the orders of politicians who don't understand and don't want to understand the capabilities and limitations of a self-aware tank designed to fight straightforward battles against heavily armed aliens, not suppress rioters and fight guerrillas who are all too aware of this Bolo's weaknesses.

The book is also a coming-of-age story; one of the subplots concerns Yalena Khrustinova, daughter of Sonny's commander, who grows up on Jefferson's World only to find on reaching adulthood that nearly everything she's learned in the government schools has been wrong. Pretty wrenching stuff, especially if you've ever had to deal with our own child-welfare Gestapo, which is (fortunately) much weaker than what the Khrustinovs have to deal with in the novel. Pretty good book overall; nice to see some secondary characters in a John Ringo novel get built up and not get blown away, for a change.


I also finished Ringworld's Children by Larry Niven, which is a much better story than its predecessor, The Ringworld Throne. Louis Wu is back, and this time he's got the biggest problem of his life: how can he keep the races of Known Space from tearing the Ringworld apart to discover its secrets, when he only has the cowardly Hindmost, the immature son of Chmeee (formerly known as Speaker-to-Animals), and a gibbon protector of uncertain loyalty to work with? The only problem with the novel is a personal one...it's been so long since I read Throne that I need to go back and find out what I forgot, because there a mess of references to it in the new novel that I just didn't get. That can wait until I've moved into the new apartment.

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