Monday, April 9, 2012

Three Science Fiction Books to Read

A recent archaeological discovery was made in my garage last week.  A box containing some books that I knew I still had (i.e. had not thrown away when my house was foreclosed and reprocessed).  Most of these books were of my books about aircraft and aviation history such as B-25 Walk Around, or P-51 Mustang Walk Around series.  Great pictures of the subject aircraft and color paintings of some aircraft in their squadron markings.

But packed away in this box where three of my favorite science fiction novels - based upon sci-fi role playing games (or RPGs for short). Two are official product tie-ins.  The third is a kinda, sorta thing.  Below is the listing of the three novels that I enjoyed reading over and over again.

1. The Sword and the Dagger by Ardath Mahhar.

2. Not in Our Stars by Jefferson P. Swycaffer.

3. Renegade's Honor by William H. Keith, Jr.

It should be noted that William H. Keith, Jr. penned the first Battletech novel (Decision at Thunder Rift), that turned into a trilogy; and also wrote Renegade's Honor for FASA Renegade Legion series. The  "middle" book on my list here is based somewhat on the Traveller game system.  Some of the concepts and terms used in Traveller are used in Swycaffer's writings.

But of these three re-discovered books on mine, I still love reading The Sword and the Dagger by Ardath Mahhar.  In fact, as I write this blog entry, it is this book that I have started re-reading again.  Of the three, I have to say I think it is my favorite.  First published in April 1987 (25 years ago now!), the tale that Ms Ardath Mahhar weaves is amazing.  The inner workings of the ruling houses of the Inner Sphere and politics on a galactic scale where handle very well.  In reading her online bio about this book, I came across a reference where William H. Keith, Jr., came in to help her on the small scale combat tactics writing.

 But this book stands alone (I think) of all the other Battletech novels that came after hers.  She 'nailed' the characters of Ardan Sortec and Hanse 'The Fox' Davion.

The basic plot for this novel is this - Ardan Sortek discovers a plot to replace Hanse Davion, who is the First Prince of the Federated Suns, with a double under the control of Maximilian Liao, Chancellor of the rival Capellan Confederation. It is this novel that sets in place the conditions that will lead to the Fourth Succession War that will start when Hanse Davion weds his betroth - Melissa Steiner.

I was so in love with this story that I re-read the book at least 13 times while learning how to write a movie script (by adapting her story).  Now if only I can re-discover the location of this script of mine, I would be happy again.  I wrote it out in long hand first and then transcribed to typewritten pages.  Finally, I re, re-transcribed it onto computer.  I know I have it, just trying to find it again after basically 20 years of storage is another matter.

Ardath Mahhar recently passed away (February 20, 1930 - February 1, 2012).

Next comes Not in Our Stars by Jefferson P. Swycaffer.  The plot for it is as follows: The story is set in what is known as the Concordat, an interstellar empire that is both aged and wide-spread. On one of its flanks lies a section of space called the Outreach, once loyal to the Concordat, but now taken over by raiders and in open rebellion as a result.  As an aside, this is the Traveller Game setting as The Third Imperium and the Spinward Marches.

Admiral Michael Devon is a hero of the Sonallan War, but for all the wrong reasons. He disobeyed orders and flaunts authority, but in the process; Devon manages to win victories after victories.

And this has gone to his head.  Out in the Outreach when Devon's new mission begins to get hints of a conspiracy within the Concordat itself, Devon launches a offensive against his superiors.

Like in Traveller, you have Jump Space.  Typically it takes a week in Jump Space to get to the next star system.  Communications is by courier (no Faster Than Light subspace comm system like in Star Trek).

The novel is not great fiction, but if you are running a Traveller game, then it is a wonderful source book.  Characters are a bit cardboard like.  In later novels in his Concordat universe, Swycaffer is better with his writing skills.  But in this novel, I enjoyed reading the combat and strategy that is the background for this novel.

Finally, we have William H. Keith, Jr's Renegade's Honor.  For pure space combat thrills and chills, this is a wonderful book to read.  While dealing with another game 'universe' instead of the Battletech game universe, one can see how improved Keith has become over his first FASA tie-in novel; Decision at Thunder Rift.  And this novel, like Ardath Mahhar's novel The Sword and the Dagger; should be converted to the big screen!  Since the re-imaged Battlestar Galactica has shown the way for future "space combat", I would love to see Renegade's Honor done in the same manner.

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