In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.
One thing I look for in summer reading is a story that keeps me turning pages, and there is nothing like the sense of jeopardy you find in military science fiction to keep the reader engaged. One of the better examples of this genre appearing in the 1990s was the General series, co-written by David Drake and S. M. Stirling. The books, loosely inspired by the adventures of the Roman general Belisarius, featured Raj Whitehall, an officer who develops a telepathic link with an ancient battle computer, and fights to restore space-faring civilization to a far-away world whose society has collapsed. The books were filled with action and adventure, and featured evocative descriptions, interesting characters and a compelling setting.