Sunday, October 19, 2008

When Duty Calls - William C. Dietz


When Duty Calls
A Novel of the Legion of the Damned
William C. Dietz
Ace

Science Fiction

Humanity is at war. The Confederacy of Sentient Beings is in a war with the Ramanthian Empire. The Ramanthians are insectoids who just had an enormous population explosion and need more of everything, including space for the new members of society to live. Their Queen is new, and wants to be seen as a warrior. She accompanies her forces and participates in tactical planning.

The Clone Hegemony has been keeping a separate peace with the Ramanthians. That is, until one of their mining outposts is attacked and the population nearly exterminated. What the bugs didn’t count on is the presence of a group of clones trained for combat in the north near the mines. With the mines largely untouched, the many iterations of Seebo have a chance to take back the planet and do some serious damage to the occupiers.

This is military science fiction at its best. While this is part of a long-standing series, it’s no problem for new readers (like me) to jump in at this point. The inhabited universe presented here is vast, and my overview here is necessarily a bare thumbnail version of the intricate political and military actions that make up the plot. The cast of characters is very large, but the author manages to infuse each person with a unique personality and background.

The insectoid race has its own aims, individuals, and politics, and is fascinating to explore. The Clones, each a copy of a “founder” individual, live regimented lives according to their birth. They disdain “free breeders” and mixing genetic material from one line to another. Some members of their society are beginning to disagree, causing internal conflicts that are central to the Clone Hegemony’s view of itself as a whole. In all, WHEN DUTY CALLS can be read as military scifi, as a commentary on social values, or as a great action-adventure novel. Either way, it makes me want to go back and pick up some of the earlier stories.

Rating: 8
October 2008
ISBN# 978-0-441-01632-7 (hardcover)

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