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"Stand By For Mars!"

Review: The Black March, by Marshall S. Thomas
review by Caroline Miniscule

View the offial site for Soldier of the Legion


The time: A future in which mankind is fighting for survival against an all-powerful alien enemy.

The place: A volcanic rock called Andrion Three

The event: When we last left Thinker and the rest of the Beta Squad, they had found themselves and their make-shift metallic raft inexorably swept away from their battle with the Omnis by a river of lava, teetering on the edge of a lavafall, and then, amidst screams of terror, sucked over the edge.

The Soldier of the Legion Series

Soldier of the Legion
The Black March
Slave of the Legion
Secret of the Legion
Cross of the Legion
Curse of the Legion

Interview with Marshall Thomas
Review of Soldier of the Legion

Marshall Thomas returns with the second installment in his military science fiction series detailing the adventures of the soldiers of the Legion, in particular those of Beta Squad, as told by Thinker, a young man who embraces his fate to live or die for the Legion.

I awoke to a great light shining directly into my eyes. My body ached, but it was beyond pain, just as I was beyond pain. I propped myself up on my elbows and looked around. I was stunned.

I was clad in my A-suit on a black beach on the shore of a vast, luminous white lava sea that glowed under dark skies. Little volcanic islands rose here and there in the sea, smoking. On the lake's distant shores, great steaming slabs of tortured rock rose almost straight up to an opaque sky. Overhead, evil clouds streaked the sky, clouds with glittering edges of fire, a volcanic sky.

The galaxy is divided between the System - an empire that has enslaved the worlds of the inner systems, and the Confederation of Free Worlds, or ConFree. The ConFree is defended by the Legion - male and female soldiers clad in A-suits (anthropomorphic armor that protects them from just about every weapon...just about, but not quite) who have given up their old lives and forged new ones, who live only to fight and die together...and who are tasked with saving human civilization.

They are ranked against not only the "Systies," but also the Omni, a warlike alien race possessing psychic ability, who feed on mankind physically as well as mentally.

And on Andrion Three, Beta Squad discovers that the "Systies" have been collaborating with the Omnis...and that their own government has known about and aided and abetted this collaboration.

After rescue from Andrion Three, the Squad's next assignment is, along with Gamma Squad, to infiltrate Mongera, a planet where the Systies have allowed the Omnis to establish a base.

The ship was shaking itself apart, a falling star, a meteor, hurling itself at Mongera's tortured surface.

"We die today," Valkyrie said dreamily.

"We die together," Boudicca replied quietly.

Outstanding leadership, I thought glumly. [Valkyrie and Boudicca are part of Gamma Squad]

"That O is going to die too, guys," Sassin announced. He was armed with a massive plasma manlink, another horrendous toy for our O to ponder.

"I'm staying right next to you, Sassin," Scrapper said. "I've got no plans to die."

"Nobody's going to die," Snow Leopard cut in, "except the O. Listen to me and follow orders, gang. We came back from Coldmark, we came back from Andrion Three, and we're coming back from Mongera! Nobody dies!"

That was the difference between Beta One and Gamma One. I'd walk into Hell for Beta One, but I wouldn't cross the street for Gamma One."

Thomas' prose is a return to the breathless, adjective-heavy style of the classic pulps, with non-stop descriptions, deep-dyed evil alien monstrosities, and rousing battle sequences...interspersed by Thinker's endless monologuing on every aspect of a Legion soldier's service, and the conflicts between the ConFrees, the Systies, and the O's.

When Thomas is describing the battle scenes the book moves along at a breakneck pace, with plenty of suspense. However, he's also introduced a love triangle into the mix - with Thinker as the object of affection between Valkyrie - a top-notch killing machine, and Priestess, a medic, and we're frequently treated to Thinker's agonizing over his betrayal of Valkyrie and his emotions for Priestess, and his feelings aobut life, which sometimes got on this reviewer's nerves.

Neverthless, Thomas has created an intense view of the future, designed and populated over twenty years worth of work. The back of the book contains a glossary featuring excerpts from the ConFree Handbook - which gives the history of the conflict between the ConFree, the System and the Omnis, and a list of the worlds - slave and free - that occupy the galaxy. At the back of Soldier of the Legion we have a glossar of definitions of technical terms used in the books, explanations of the various weapon systems, and a description of the weaponry of the Omnis.

There's plenty more information, and illustrations, at the Soldier of the Legion website.

If you like military science fiction in the style of the classic pulps, chances are you'll enjoy this series.

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