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The Lost Regiment

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 Rally Cry  by  William R. Forstchen
Rally Cry by William R. Forstchen

This book almost defies description: a magnificent adventure novel, a science fiction novel that manages to be intelligent and to include true science and wonderful fiction, a military fiction novel with some of the best battle scenes I have ever read, "Rally Cry" is the opening shot in the "Lost Regiment" series and one of the best reads in any genre you'll find in the last decade. One of the most troubling aspects of science fiction -a genre I really like- is the simplistic treatment that most authors give their books, and their cavalier attitude toward the reader. Even authors with scientific background, like Asimov, wrote wrong science, as in "Nightfall", or dealt with insipid plots and flat characters that were mere copies of other characters. Forstchen has used stereotypes here, too, but his way of dealing with them is far superior to that of other writers. His Union Regiment lost in a world where humans are food to the native inhabitants, and where the Yankees spark a revolution that eventually reaches planetary proportions, is not only entertaining. It's intelligent, as well, with solid documentation of industry and warfare, and a very credible alien society of nomads. The best is, perhaps, the idealism of some of those Yankees (and Forstchen), who see their country as what it should be and fight for it, and also die for it. Stranded in a hostile world, these bluecoats will turn out to be the titans all countries want but few get. And their cause, to free people from serfdom and slaughter, is a magnified vision of the most noble aspect of the American Civil War, whose origins were somewhat removed from freedom itself, but that ended up becoming a war where a country almost tore itself apart in order to get rid of slavery. Forstchen knows that and is proud of the New England tradition of patriotism and freedom. His extraordinary science fiction, adventure, military history book is a homage to those who fought for the ideal of making this country a better place.
 The Union Forever  by  William R. Forstchen
The Union Forever by William R. Forstchen

Second book in the "Lost Regiment" series, this one is a winner, too. In what could turn out to be a very clever plot device, the author presents the new horde, Merki, waging war by proxy against the Republic, using as pawns the humans from Cartha. This is naval warfare, and the shifty Cartha will prove tough customers in all the novels to come. New major characters are developed here, among them Bullfinch, who goes from being the only Navy man to leave the ship at the end of "Rally Cry", to become Admiral of the Republic's navy. Also, we get insights into Tobias' motivations, and there is some redemption, as well. Ferguson starts to prove that he is a engeneering genius, and both Hawthorne and Keane will see parts of themselves that they don't like. A very good, fast read. There are several typos and a little confusion in the names, but, overall, still an excellent Bloody New World. When it comes to sheer emotion in battle, Forstchen outdoes everyone else in the field.
 Terrible Swift Sword  by  William R. Forstchen
Terrible Swift Sword by William R. Forstchen

War is changing in Forstchen's world. Good! This sort of war without prisoners, without mercy, a war of total anihilation, gets to be a little more modern still by the end of "Terrible Swift Sword." Keane will make a decision that will buy his Republic time at the price of tens of thousands of lives. The enemy will also understand that things cannot go back to be the way they were before the Yankees arrived. "Terrible Swift Sword" moves fast, like all the other noves in the series, and is an absolute cliffhanger. Again the Cartha are trapped (part their fault, part fate) between mortal enemies who will use them mercilessly to gain advantage. And Muzta of the Tugars will become one of the most interesting aliens ever. The Republic hangs from a thread. The folly of its leaders is balanced by their intelligence during the worst of times. One of the best things about this series is that, in spite of showing humans as the "good" guys, the author presents many of our species as what we are so good at producing: murderous, selfish, cowardly men who have a tough time accepting responsibility for freedom. This book prepares the way for an epic fourth installment of scorched earth. Excellent.
 Fateful Lightning  by  William R. Forstchen
Fateful Lightning by William R. Forstchen

Wow, this is the series that just keeps on going and going. Excellent. This was perhaps the best one I've read so far next to Rally Cry. Again, there's that great sense of dread and forboding on the humans' part, as they attempt to fight off the ever encroaching Merki Hordes, now, of course, led by that rat Tamuka. The funeral of Jubadi was sickening... I loved it. Showalter's and his Cavalry's final, desparate charge into the Merki ranks was glorious. John Mina was a total nutball, picking on ol' Fergie like that. Oh, and I'm glad Ferguson, my favorite character in the series, got the girl. He deserves her. The Battle of Hispania was marvelous, so many troops in a battle of annihilation, fighting for their lives against vicious alien monsters, it filled you with pride for being human. Mutza's role in the whole story was satisfying-- I always liked him for some reason, even when he was attempting to destroy the old 35th. At least he had that glimmering of doubt, of whether or not fighting the humans was such a good idea, something which Tamuka did not. Bullfinch's endeavors, however, were very underexplored. I would've liked to see more of his liberation of the Cartha. Young Gregory's recitation of Shakespeare's Henry V-- "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers..."-- was very emotional and moving. And, yes, the editing is very, very bad here, as it is in the other Lost Regiment novels, but it did not take away from this rich story. Fateful Lightning is a masterful end to the Merki War, a stupendous entry in the Lost Regiment series, and a true gem in the realm of science-fiction.
 Battle Hymn  by  William R. Forstchen
Battle Hymn by William R. Forstchen

IThis one is absolutely different. "Battle Hymn" is a vision of the Gulag on an alien world. Whereas "Fateful Lightning" gave us the terrible sacrifice of the Cartha, "Battle Hymn" shows us the enslavement of the Chinese, and others, with whom Schuder is now living. Major new character is Ha'ark, the Redeemer and, very important as well, a Zulu warrior friend of Hans. There will be a bit of confusion with come names. As in ther past, with Vuka's brother, in this book a companion of Ha'ark is named Jamul, but in the future will be referred to as Jurak. I do not know the reason for this. It may be an oversight, or it may be that these new commers have chosen to make their names more palatable to the natives. Still, all books have errors. The soul of this series is its conflict, big as a planet and enduring as the machines that transported the Yankees to a New World of War. Most of the book concentrates on the efforts by Hans and his confederates in escaping, the help they get from the Republic, the problems that the traitor Hinsen creates, and the menace that Ha'ark, with his modern, futuristic vision of warfare, means for the survival of humans on Valdenia. Suspenseful, filled with the heroics and folly of war that Forstchen has turned into a trade mark, "Battle Hymn" also introduces the tank into the series.
 Never Sound Retreat  by  William R. Forstchen
Never Sound Retreat by William R. Forstchen

Another great book in this series. Tanks and machine guns. Ha'ark has been forced to attack the Republic before he was absolutely ready, but the Republic buckles under pressure. This time both armies are modern and their leaders understand modern war. Also, expect the unexpected from Hans, who will turn the tide once more. A very interesting aspect of the series is how fallible Keane is. He inspires his people, but makes terrible mistakes that must be payed for with lots of blood later on. This destroys him little by little. Forstchen manages to make him very human, very far from a legend, and closer to what people really are. This book is transitional. Not as spectacular as those before, it still is very good and sets the stage for more to come. Also, a new major character is developed: the tank commander Timokin. And since Ferguson is dead, the technological edge that the Republic could always count on seems threatened. Read on.

 A Band of Brothers  by  William R. Forstchen
A Band of Brothers by William R. Forstchen

Never has a book or series of books so moved me. You place every one of us in your stories with your heroes; shoulder-to-shoulder we stand with them. We are there in all of they're moments of fear and bravery, gripped in their life and death struggle to live free or die! Keane is hurt and that changes him. The leader of the humans becomes the most deeply human of the lot, forced to face his fear and his guilt, while a vicious street by street fight erupts in the city of Roum, from the sewers to the buildings. The Redeemer shows himself as a less than ideal tactician, reacting to the circunstances more than creating them, which is actually what has been documented as real war, where combat is changing and fluid. Hans will end up leading "his" people, the Chin, into battle against the Bantag with little more than their hands. This is stirring writing, which appeals to our emotions as much as to our rationality. This alien world is very possible, and the technology to get there is part of theoretical physics, with wormholes between universes and/or galaxies, or sectors of galaxies, and the reversion of the hordes to primitive nomads after their ancestors "walked between the stars." "A Band Of Brothers" manages to keep the suspense alive just at the moment (the seventh installment) when most series that last this long wind down and either die, or crawl ahead to ever-diminishing interest. By shifting the focus and by making his characters more fallible and, therefore, more human, Forstchen has written a dark, different winner.
 Men of War  by  William R. Forstchen
Men of War by William R. Forstchen

Forstchen has truly created something that far surpasses anything that has come before and probably set the golden standard for the genre. Drake, Pournelle, Stirling, Niven, Saberhagen, and Forstchen's other books do not come close to this series. Rickety aerosteamers and land and sea ironclads, as primitive as they are, somehow have a superior eloquence in conveying the drama of war over the sophisticated spaceships, supersonic planes, or lasers which have up to this decade been the staple of other military science fiction. This concluding chapter itself is a true microcosm of what fans and admirers have come to expect from the series. While this means incredible battles, tense political interplay, fierce confrontations of personality and fate, surprising twists, and some heavy references to the importance of logistics, technology, and strategy, the book also carries with it some of the faults of the series; namely, the inconsistency with the characters' names begs for some coherent editorialism. True to form, Fortschen changes the Rus orthodox priest's name from Casmar to Casmir! At the end of the book one of the character's name is reshuffled in a pretty blatant mistake though it only happens once. I won't risk giving anything away, but readers will see it when they get there. However, as the series has always done, the tremendous story more than makes up for these annoyances. The conclusion to all the important threads is not COMPLETELY detailed, but the book does present a definitive conclusion to the Bantag War and the answer to humanity's future existence or extinction. By the end of the book readers will know which side won the war, what species will dominate the planet, and what the very GENERAL implications for the future of the Republic will be, so longtime readers need not despair on that account. I would have preferred a highly detailed account of the next 100 to 1000 years like one reviewer requested, but as it is, the last chapter which wraps things up is satisfying enough. Beyond that, Forstchen seems to have indicated that he is through with the Lost Regiment, and I commend him for letting this terrific series run its course and ending it with the dignity and the treatment it deserves. The new use for the aerosteamers in battle is some of the most exciting stuff I've read since the rocket barrage at Hispania or Timokin's charge at Rocky Hill! We've all wanted to see the humans on the offensive and wondering how much longer the Republic could hold out under the strain of constant war and here are the answers. This is the worthy conclusion I was looking for.
 Down to the Sea: A Novel of Lost Regiment  by  William R. Forstchen
Down to the Sea: A Novel of Lost Regiment by William R. Forstchen

The union of interstellar exiles founded by Andrew Keane and the 35th Maine has been at peace for nearly 20 years. Keane is president again, and survivors of the once deadly Hordes have been reduced to a status similar to that of contemporary American Indians, which they don't enjoy. Meanwhile, the empire of the Kazars, far to the south and torn by civil war, still reaches north to menace the humans. Naval pilots Sean O'Donald and Richard Cromwell, sons, respectively, of a hero and a traitor, fly their aerosteamers into the jaws of the Kazar fleet. Taken prisoner, O'Donald is seduced, almost bodily, into turning colors and joining the other humans of the assassinlike Order of the Shiv. Cromwell escapes to alert the north of this new menace. The union expands its naval aviation in time to win the first round against the Kazars, but it is obvious that Forstchen is launching a new cycle of the adventures of the Lost Regiment and its descendants. Good news for action-sf lovers!