Lions Den VI: Tom Kratman

As his fans already know, Tom Kratman has another volume out in his popular the Carerra military science fiction series that started with A Desert Called Peace. One can’t help but like the timely name of Book Five, Come and Take Them, which many readers will recognize as the English translation of the defiant Spartan phrase “Molon Labe”. As usual, if you would like to be one of the three book reviewers, please send me an email and I will send you a PDF for your review.

It is also worth mentioning that two of Tom’s books are free on Kindle Select today, including the first in the Carrera series: A Desert Called Peace and Caliphate

No sense in talking about Vol. V in a series without talking about the series.

Caveat: If you’re a staunch liblepr (liberal-leftist-progressive-red) the odds of you’re getting through the series without suffering a fatal case of exploding brain pan are, at best, fifty-fifty.  This is hilarious, too, because the main character, in the course of creating a one export economy for a small country – the export being highly trained formations of military auxiliaries – finds that he had inadvertently done what most single export economies end up doing, creating a partial “socialist workers paradise.” Nonetheless, every time someone buys one of my books a liberal, somewhere, cries or screams.  And remember: Every time a liberal cries or screams, an angel gets his wings.

I wrote the series to discuss a large number of different things and I wrote it to work at different levels, for different readings, by different people, at different times.  At one level, the first two volumes concerned how the current campaigns should have been fought and why everything has gone to shit.  Note that I predicted that before it happened, well before.  These were also books on revenge and on how one tends to become much like ones enemies.  They also discussed, incidentally, with the Cheng Ho disaster, the failed first attempt at colonization, the likelihood or lack thereof of a colonization attempt that mixed culturally incompatible peoples.

The next volume, The Lotus Eaters, was transitional and political, with a heavy dose of coup d’etat and drug war, the latter of which is a commentary on the silliness and moral cowardice of blaming impoverished Colombians and Mexicans for our societal weakness and idiocy.  The fourth concerned how to turn women into infantry, and get military use out of gays, the old-fashioned way.

Here’s a very brief excerpt: 

“Gather ’round, girls,” Franco ordered. The women, all of them still in something like shock, clustered in a circle. “Sit down.”

He began to pass out red felt-tip markers. When everyone had received one, Franco began to speak.

“Okay. I want you to take your markers and I want you to draw a dotted line just like the one I am drawing on my wrist.”

Franco drew a six inch long series of red dots lengthwise down his left wrist. “Everyone done with that? Good. Now draw another one on the other wrist . . . Done? Good. Let me see. Very good. Now there’s no excuse.

“You see, women threaten suicide and even act it out rather frequently, but you fail so often to carry through that I am forced to question your sincerity and competence as a sex. Therefore . . .”

Franco turned toward the door. He tossed a package of razor blades to the floor on his way out.

“Trujillo!” he called over one shoulder. “Collect up the markers in that box and put them by my office door. Anybody who wants a razor blade, just help yourself.  ‘Cut along dotted line.’”

At still another level – and it’s a shame, you’ll agree, that “literary fiction” is invariable concerned with mere style and never with sophisticated thought – we have something very like the world of today – called with deliberate lack of imagination, “Terra Nova” – engaged in war against the world of tomorrow, Old Earth, a hellish nightmare of UN, EU, NGO, and Quango dominated oligarchy, to prevent that kind of oligarchy from arising on the new world.  At yet another level, it’s about demographic change, and what that does to societies, not merely as a result of who comes in, but also about who leaves.

This volume is about that war or, rather, it’s beginnings.  You’ll have to either take my word for it or read the previous four volumes, there’s no Deus ex Machina in there nor in the next one.  Everything – I mean every goddamned thing – was presaged in the previous books. I doubt there has ever been a novel or series about war on the grand scale as thoroughly staffed as these.

There is one jarring – albeit quite deliberate – thing in there, the degree to which the new world resembles the old, physically and politically.  As said, it’s deliberate and by no means thoughtless or lazy; it was harder to do this than to set up a completely new scheme.  Here’s an edited/redacted version of something I wrote to someone on that:

“[The planet is] a game preserve / wildlife refuge… Again, I would have thought that would be obvious but…well…maybe not so much as I’d thought.

Now if a group has the power to link galaxies (as far as we know), and intends to (as far as we can tell), and intends to set up a wildlife preserve, going so far as to genengineer plant life to poison intelligent life (as far as we know), one would expect them to want the wildlife to prosper, no? That requires similar weather, yes? And so what is surprising about people who can link galaxies also lifting up land masses to get the right kind of weather?

That actually wasn’t going to be the case, but someone pointed me to an article – the title was something to the effect of “We’re all Panamanians” – that made the case that it was changes in weather patterns arising from the rise of the Isthmus of Panama that led to the evolution of, among other life forms, us. Once I started thinking about that, I realized that, yes, if you’ve got godlike power and you intend to set up a wildlife preserve on another planet, you’re going to have to do something about the weather, which will require changing the terrain.

As far as similar names, do you really think that’s unrealistic? I mean, I thought I was born in Boston, named for Boston, England, in New England, named for England, next to New York, named for York, which had once had a city named New Amsterdam, named for….oh, well, maybe I was born and raised somewhere else and it’s all an illusion and people never, never – what never? No, never! – never name a new settlement for home… 😉

The nations didn’t just happen to be settled. If you read with some care, you can see that there was a deliberate movement to get all the old fashioned nationalist types off of Earth. What’s hard about that? They did, of course, try to set up a monocultural planet, but that failed with the Cheng Ho disaster. (Funny how people miss that no one ever answered Rodney King’s question.) Why? Because I would (and did) expect it to fail.

Let me turn that around; given the Cheng Ho disaster, why would they group themselves differently than on old Earth? Why would anyone risk their lives by mixing? Given the desire of sundry transnationalists to get the old fashioned types off of Earth, why wouldn’t they learn from the Cheng Ho disaster and accommodate emigrants’ desire to be with others like themselves? I think the burden’s on you, or anyone, who objects to the scheme to answer those questions.

Besides, the easy sci fi assumption of monocultural planets may come to pass when there are enough planets discovered to give one to everybody. But when it’s only one? No, it’s going to be partitioned, sort of like the Pope partitioned what we call Latin America.

What point to doing it the way I did? Because I wanted the reader to be able to read the book / series at several different levels, one of which was commentary on the here and now. I said that pretty much expressly in that opening blurb, “Unless you want to.” (In other words, “Yes, go right ahead.”) “

And that’s enough about that.  Read.  Criticize.  If you bitch about typos, this being a galley proof not a final edited copy, you can run but you can’t hide.