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The Traveling Tyrant Paperback – April 19, 2011
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About the Author
Richard Marsden teaches history for a living, has a Bachelors degree in Secondary Education from ASU and a Masters degree in Military Studies: Land Warfare from AMU. He is an author, historical fencer, dabbles in economics, and is a husband to a loving wife who tolerates his eccentricities. www.worksofrichardmarsden.com and www.travelingtyrant.com
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This is definitely a dark comedy at its heartless best. Death and deception go hand and hand here, with virtually every character having more than one agenda, though their desires and goals for advancement and power seem to be quite clear, even if their routes to achieving those goals are often cloudy. This story could easily pave the way for a series of books about the Tyrant and his fleet, plus a client base that has a tendency to be fairly amoral in their desire for conquest and dominance. The writing is solid and the wit sharp, with plenty of deception to entertain and amuse those of us who like a little hemlock with our wine every now and then. While the Tyrant is not a likable fellow, with his lecherous ways and Napoleonic complex, he is only one member of a cast of equally twisted characters, each with their own twisted perspectives and peccadilloes that enhance the story and keep you guessing as to what might happen next and who might deceive who. For some, the darkness of this tale might be a bit much, given that it is fairly relentless, with no apologies offered for the vicious, almost offhand casual way lives are destroyed, but that is also a part of the story's devious allure. For those who can handle such diabolical tactics in the stories they read, this one should be quite an entertaining addition to their collection.
There are camp elements to this novel from the outset, and Mordid himself is in on the joke as he cheerfully navigates the deadly vipers nest of his world with a wink and a nudge, and the occasional quick gunshot. He seems like the kind of guy who would be fun to have a drink with, but if he decides you were a threat to his position in any way, or even an inconvenience, he'll shoot you in the face and have your whole family killed without batting a carefully made up eye.
The story revolves around what should be a routine contract, even a cakewalk, for the Traveling Tyrant operation. Clear out a tropical planet to be made into a spectacular resort for a chain of intergalactic Corporate hotels. The only catch, other than some dangerous local flora and fauna, lies in a surprisingly resourceful group of religious fanatics who already have squatters-rights to the planet.
The story revolves around Executive Wessle, the hapless 'Corpy' who decided to take the dangerous step of hiring mercenaries after losing a court case to the religious cult, Mordid, the Traveling Tyrant himself (only the latest in a long line, as we learn that the real bosses of the operation are sinister and mysterious 'shareholders') his chief Diplomat Mauss, beautiful but psychopathic public relations specialist Eryn, his subordinates and rivals General Thrask and Admiral Hurth, and two troopers, the cheerful and ambitious Jenkins, and his friend the morose pal who fears his own bad luck as a soon to be retired trooper. The entire outfit are all former residents of the apparently hellish outer arm, and only go through the motions of being soldiers. They are pitted against the Prophet, his comely daughter Sarah and his devoted and unexpectedly numerous followers.
As the mistrust, jealousy and pathology of Mordid's own outfit dovetail with his own reckless pursuit of a personal agenda, the situation takes a drastic turn for the worse and the entire outfit is put at serious risk. Mordid genially navigates the catastrophe with a seemingly unflappable aplomb, but the increasingly harsh measures he takes to restore control reflect his desperate plight - and his willingness to do anything at all to appease the one player he truly fears, the shareholders.
By the end it's abundantly clear that Mordid is an utterly ruthless character, whose decisions some readers may find a little shocking. His assistant Eryn is even scarier. But the truth is despite the satire he is probably closer to the reality of the great conquerors of History: Julius Caesar, Cortez, Napoleon, than most of the carefully sanitized popular culture portrayals we read or see of them on TV. Mordid, in fact, is likely destined for greater things, and his name already inspires terror in his own Universe, where the children say their prayers at night in the hopes that they never encounter that terrible Condottieri of the stars, The Traveling Tyrant.