- File Size: 4909 KB
- Print Length: 444 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Castalia House (December 12, 2014)
- Publication Date: December 12, 2014
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00QZD9H5K
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #665,322 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Riding the Red Horse Kindle Edition
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The essays cover topics ranging from an article by former British intelligence operative unexpectedly explaining how clandestine intelligence is actually quite limited in value, to insightful analysis of the Soviet Union's strategy of "letting the tigers fight" and how it affected 20th century conflicts after WWII, to how recognizing basic principles of thermodynamics could lead to a number of intriguing and more realistic scenarios in space for sci-fi writers, to an analysis of battlefield laser technology that impressed me by covering events all the way up to a few weeks ago. This is just a random selection; some I found more interesting than others, some were downright fascinating, but all were worth the read.
The essays are not navel-gazing; when their writers challenge conventional thinking on various topics, they do so with the voice of insight and experience. Their credentials are helpfully explained by an editor's introduction at the beginning of each entry, for both the essays and the fiction. That was helpful both to establish the authority of the essay writers to speak on their subjects, and also in helping me to become aware of some newer authors I hadn't heard of but whose work I enjoyed in this collection.
The fiction entries are mostly military sci-fi to varying degrees of "hardness," with a couple Roman/Medieval fantasy type stories thrown in as well, but all deal with questions of tactics, strategy, and the human element in combat. Even the "weaker" contributions were fun reads and tended to creatively flesh out principles set out in the non-fiction essays.
The stronger ones were quite enjoyable indeed, and I will be quickly going back for another look at several of my favorites and seeking out their authors' other work.
(Note: for fans of the Quantum Mortis world, there's a tidbit or two for you in here)
In general, I found a few general "themes" emerging from the interposed essays and military fiction, which are balanced well. One is that the nature of combat is changing. 4th dimensional warfare is upon us. If you don't know what that means, or if you don't care but are interested in more exposure to talented military sci-fi authors, this collection would serve as an excellent introduction to both. Highly recommended.
When that's the editor's bio, you know you're in for a treat. Reprising the eclectic mix of military fiction with non-fiction of the 1980s' Pournelle-edited `There Will Be War' series and adding spicy dashes of that distinctive thumb in the eye to social pieties which makes Kratman and coeditor Vox Day such delightfully compelling online personas, this is absolutely the best penny per page you'll spend this year for either entertainment or education.
The nonfiction pieces discuss the gamut of operational tactics, principles, and technologies from Theban infantry deployments at Leuctra in 371 BC to laser defense deployments in the Persian Gulf certified operational December 10 2014; can't swear that makes it the most historically comprehensive collection available, but it certainly is the most up to date as this is written on the 15th. Besides the various applied warfare real and simulated aspects, there's theoretical musings from grand strategy -- `Make The Tigers Fight' is just about guaranteed to be the most thought-provoking dissertation on Soviet ambitions you ever have or will read -- to droll self-effacery from one who allegedly would know about `The Limits of Intelligence'. Something for everyone, truly.
The fiction pieces are a likewise diverse potpourri; from the classic Pournelle 'His Truth Goes Marching On' in the first volume of this series just as it was in the first volume of `There Will Be War', to the debut of famed geek culture maven ESR as MilSF author in the technothriller mold, by way of everything from Steve Rzasa's most unconventionally renegade AI warship to Brad Torgersen's touching fantasy of unit bonding. Although style and focus vary profusely, one and all they tell a good adventure story -- why, the table of contents makes a handy slate for your Hugo nominations next year, contributors and editors alike, if you're amused at the thought of applying the principles discussed herein to the cultural realm.
So for a rollicking ride through adventure, history, and technology with military insight and scifi frisson, this is a worthy inheritor to the Pournelle editorial legacy, and recommended without hesitation for the next $4.99 you spend on your leisure!
The other half of the equation is the military aspect. There are some missteps in the stories that are clearly part of the general malaise of fiction writing that feed and are fed by the delusions that are destroying society at large. More than balancing these out however are the quality stories and non-fiction pieces in the book. The American military tradition has been to generate brilliant advances in weaponry and have writers that produce assessments of tactics and strategy that have impacted the world, only to be ignored, suppressed, or simply only given lip service by the command ranks. Want to see some of what is being ignored today? This is a good place to start.
I am very much looking forward to the next installment.