The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
Web Magazine and Sourcebooks

Vol 1, Issue #10
"Stand By For Mars!"
October 2006

The Thunder Child: Book Reviews
Fiction Reviews by Caroline Miniscule

Soldier of the Legion
Marshall S. Thomas
Timberwolf Press

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The genre of military fiction took off after the publication of Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers in 1959. Now Marshall Thomas enters the field with an exciting new series that gives an homage to the old classic.

"Stand by. Red Hawk is on the way." Snow Leopard's icy whisper hissed in my ears, though he was nowhere in sight.

A muted red glow bathed the interior of my helmet and the darksight built into my faceplate lit up the black forest better than daylight. It was the dead pit of the night on this obscure world. Merlin and I crouched in our A-suit battle armor in a tangle of undergrowth, surrounded by tall, spooky trees. The silent forest was calm and serene. All appeared to be well.

But it wasn't.

The narrator is "Thinker," otherwise known as Beta Three - a member of the Beta team of the Legion. He no longer has a civilian name, or a past.

Having survived their basic training on Planet Hell, we join him on his squad's Final Problem, a 'live-fire' exercise to rescuse slave women from their pirate captors.

From there, it's (almost) non-stop action all the way.

"A rough truce divides the known galaxy between the System, the despotic slave empire that rules the inner systems, and the Confederation of Free Planets. The ConFree is defended by the Legion."

But the Legion has more to worry about than the "Systies," as they're termed.

"Once before the Legion faced the godlike, utterly alien and evil Omnis, and drove them back at the cost of billions of lives." Now the Omnis are back as well...

Thomas has created a believable universe, with believable heroes and villains. The heroes are wholly good, the villains wholly evil, with innocent worlds caught in the crossfire.

The action in Soldier of the Legion takes place on the planet Andrion 2, where the Legion is endeavoring to rescue the indiginous people, called Scalers, from the Exos, huge ant-like monsters mysteriously transported to the planet from the neighboring Andrion 3.

Yes, the shape of these particular enemies is doubtless an homage to Heinlein's Starship Troopers, but they exist in a multi-faceted and complex environment, as Thomas has more ambitious plans for his characters in a projected six-part series.

The book isn't without its flaws. With Starship Troopers, the action comes to a dead stop periodically so Heinlein can air his societal views. With Soldier of the Legion, the action comes to a stop periodically to describe the romantic entanglements of "Thinker," he's got two women (both fellow Legion solders) in love with him, and he loves both of them. Unfortunately these little interludes are quite unconvincing.

Fortunately, the action starts up again quickly, and readers are plunged back into the pulse-pounding adventure. Thomas' writing style is rather a pulpish one, but it's the good pulp, not the 90% rest!

The soldiers of Beta Team are likable and sympathetic, their problems are vast, and this is a welcome entry in the military sf genre.

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