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FOREIGN LEGIONS

David Drake, Created by
David Drake, Created by . Baen $23 (320p) ISBN 978-0-671-31990-8
Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Mass Market Paperbound - 384 pages - 978-0-7434-3560-4
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In his introduction to this solid shared-world anthology, laid in the universe of his novel Ranks of Bronze (in turn developed from a short story reprinted here as the first item), military SF author Drake explains the book's venerable premise: human soldiers (in this case, Romans from the lost legions of Crassus) have been enslaved by star-traveling aliens who need low-tech mercenaries. Of the stories, David Weber's "Sir George and the Dragon," Drake's "Lambs to the Slaughter" and S.M. Stirling's "The Three Walls—32nd Campaign" are all conventional if substantially above-average military SF. (It's hard to resist a centurion nicknamed Raninunculus, i.e., "Froggy.") Mark L. Van Name's "A Clear Signal" distinguishes itself by its focus on the ethical issues created for humans by access to the aliens' high technology and for aliens by access to a supply of desperate human beings. Finally, Eric Flint's "Carthago Delenda Est" combines passion and zaniness in about equal measure, a mixture that has worked for its author in novel length and now seems to prosper in his shorter pieces. Neither the basic proposition nor most of the development in individual stories will win high marks for originality, but military-historical scholarship and narrative techniques are another matter, as one might expect from the roster of authors. In addition, one learns a good deal about the background of the Roman guilds and federation—and how a "benign" federation might look from the point of view of its illegal immigrants doing its dirty work. (June)

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