Captain Rick Galloway is the head of a group of CIA mercenaries in an unnamed African country. They are their to help the local rebels overthrow the Marxist government. Unfortunately thing didn’t turn out good and now they find themselves on a hill surrounded by Cuban troops. They can either surrender and get a public show trial before they are executed or die fighting. Then a miracle happens. A flying saucer lands and offers to take them to safety. With no other option they quickly accept and are flown to a secret base on the Moon.
It is here they find the real reason they were rescued. The aliens want Galloway and his mercenaries to go to the planet Tran. A planet that is inhabited by humans that have been stolen from different periods and is in a medieval state. Every six hundred years a third sun comes and makes the growing of a drug feasible. The aliens want Galloway to use his modern weapons and establish control of an area to grow this drug.
With little options he agrees and are taken to Tran. Soon after landing Andre Parsons one of the mercs stages a coup and deposes Galloway as leader. With the pregnant girlfriend of their human pilot and one deserter from the mercs he heads out alone. Along the way they link up with Tylara who is a deposed countess and head to her family lands of Tamaerthon a people descended from Celts. With Galloway’s help they organize modern pike formations and take on the Empire of Rome. Galloway is establishing himself but there is a greater threat from the aliens and the Galactic Confederation they belong to.
The first in the Janisarries series by Pournelle. I think it is one of my favorites of his work. It has the common themes to his stories i.e. a decadent stagnant society vs. the human desire to grow through technological advancement. In this instance the Galactic Confederacy is a collection of alien races that has ruled for over five thousands years. They do it by keeping the peace through stagnation and no change. Also they use humans as Janissaries. Janissaries were the slave soldiers and administrators of the Ottoman Empire. They took as tribute the first Christian son from a family and raised him. A successful system that saw them eventually becoming the power brokers of the Ottoman Empire. They grew too powerful and had to be disbanded. So humans in this Confederacy are the Janissaries of the Confederation. Now with Earth starting to advance into space the Confederacy is looking at options to force them into the Confederation and control them or bomb them back to the stone age. Some of the human slaves work to conceal Tran in the hope it can be a bastion of human freedom.
I really think this is a unique story idea. Taking a group of modern mercenaries kidnapped by alien drug dealers and dropping them on a medieval planet. There is plenty of adventure in the realistic battles fought. There is the medieval intrigue of Tran plus the threat of the aliens as Rick Galloway tries to build an empire on Tran to save it from the coming catastrophe. Galloway eventually kills Parsons and reestablishes control of the mercenaries which is where the first book ends.