JANISSARIES III STORMS OF VICTORY BY JERRY E. POURNELLE ROLAND GREEN

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Copyright 1987.

Captain Rick Galloway is still on the planet Tran with his mercenary company. He has successfully formed an alliance between the kingdom of Drantos, Tamaratheon and the Roman Empire. Whats more a renegade faction of mercs lead by corporal Arnold Gengrich have come back giving him needed experienced men. He needs them for there is still plenty of enemies to fight. To the south a religious fanatic who opposes the new merged religion of Yatar and Christianity. To the north is the Five Kingdoms that want to retake Drantos and they outnumber Galloway’s forces by five to one. Only the star weapons and advanced tactics might win the day. All the while the alien confederacy continues to debate the fate of humans on both Tran and Earth.

The third entry in the Janissaries series has what made the first two great. Plenty of set piece battles that could go either way. Medieval intrigue, the threat of aliens bombing them and the approach of the Demon star which will plunge Tran into environmental ruin. We do get more insight into the aliens but it is still fleeting. A good portion involves the Lady Tylara who is feeling guilty for having a trusted friend assassinated. Carodoc a loyal general was married to Gwen Tremaine the girlfriend of the human Les who is working for the alien Shalnuksis. His return threatened to cause a problem that could either disrupt the alliance or anger the aliens. His death made the problems conveniently go away but now she suffers guilt and even tries to commit suicide by charging the enemy alone in battle. She gets captured and manages to bring a count from the enemies side to hers.

So the book ends with them victorious after a big battle. There was obviously supposed to be another book forthcoming. Pournelle and Green for some reason pursued other projects and it was never written. Pournelle had been working on the fourth book Janissaries The Mamelukes. Although Jim Baen didn’t like the title. Probably because most people wouldn’t get the Mameluke reference. The Mamelukes were the Muslin rulers of Egypt and the main rivals of the Ottoman Empire. The Mamelukes were on the losing end and the Ottomans extended their empire into North Africa.

Whatever the title the book is mostly finished but sadly Jerry Pournelle died last year so the future of the book is in doubt. It was supposed to end the story and tie up all the loose threads. I would hope they can find someone to finish it and it gets a release. It would be nice to get some closure to this fascinating and unique series. I guess only time will tell if that happens.

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JANISSARIES CLAN AND CROWN BY JERRY POURNELLE AND ROLAND GREEN

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Copyright 1982.

It has been several years since the alien Shalnuksi brought Rick Galloway and his CIA mercenaries from a certain death in Africa to the planet Tran. Now they have settled in with Rick marrying a countess. Most of the mercenaries are now follow him and he has alliance with the kingdom of Drantos and Tameraethon. Time is getting short for him. The Demon Star the third sun of Tran is making its 600 year appearance. He has to start growing the madweed for the aliens. Otherwise they won’t trade ammunition, medicine and other modern necessities they need. The Demon star is already causing massive disruptions in the weather and refugees are starting to pour in from the south. His first move is to form an alliance with Rome. The Romans are in a civil war in no small part to him. His victory over them caused a losing general to revolt. Galloway joins the rebel general to make him Caesar and secure a powerful ally. No sooner than that war is over than another threat from the west. Hordes of Westmen the descendants of the Scythians are coming from the high plains to escape the drought. All this while setting up a university to preserve knowledge for the coming disaster.

The second book sees Roland Green join him in writing. Another excellent book filled with big medieval battles. Throw in some modern weapons to give it an interesting twist. Add to it medieval machine politics and an alien race of drug dealers who are going to bomb the planet back to the stone age so it stays primitive. The main concern is to preserve his new university so knowledge will survive the coming catastrophe. The book does a good job of showing how life was in the middle ages and some of the more simple measures in hygiene to improve society. There is still the threat of the aliens and this mysterious Confederacy. Not much is talked about that which I would have liked to see but there was plenty of time for that in future books. At least at the time it seemed that way. Which we will go over in the next book.

JANISSARIES BY JERRY POURNELLE

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Copyright 1979.

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.

MARS ATTACKS WAR DOGS OF THE GOLDEN HORDE BY RAY W. MURILL

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Copyright 1996.

It is after the truce between the Martians and the nations of Earth. The threat from Earth’s nuclear submarines have forced an uneasy peace. The Martians have build the World Wall to separate their holdings from the human controlled lands. In Asia the Martians have Siberia and parts of northern China. Telian Piar a disgraced member of the Martian council comes on an interesting bit from Earth’s history. The Mongol Genghis Khan managed to conquer most of the world. He goes to the military commander Komo Dath and convinces him the Mongols could be used as pawns in their war with the humans. So they go out to capture a Mongol. This happens to be Qasar a Mongol who was banished from his tribe. Together with a companion he met named Bayar they kill a whole bunch of the Martians before being captured.

They come to an agreement with Qasar that they will help him be Khan of the Mongols. They use their technology to find the secret tomb of Genghis. With his armor and standard Qasar rides out and rallies the Mongols into a formidable horde. They go into free China and start pillaging. Soon though the Martians won’t help him in his conquest so Qasar Khan feels loss of face and turns his horde against the Martians. It ends in a fierce battle between the two where the Great Wall of China meets the Martian World Wall.

The second book that was released in the Mars Attacks series. This one was not as good. The main reason is that Qasar is a real loathsome asshat. Like Genghis he is an arrogant narcissistic psychopath who is only interesting in pillaging, raping and looting. He has delusions of being the next Genghis and conquering the world. Not sure why someone would make the central character someone who isn’t positive because it really doesn’t bring the reader to sympathize with the character or his motives. Yet it was done here and I have seen it in other books, movies etc.

There was some other oddities in this book. The way the Mongols talked seemed a bit stilted and phony. I mean “Those are good words to speak.” says Bayar. “Yes they are indeed good words.” replied Qasar. I mean I am not familiar with Mongol culture but I just can’t see them talking that way. Also his sidekick Bayar had allergies and always had a runny nose. He would sneeze and blow snot into his food and wipe his nose on his sleeve. I suppose he was the comic relief and supposed to be funny but I found just gross. Oh and at the end his concubine Morning Doe lies dying and wants to be released quickly. So Qasar cuts into her chest and pulls out her still beating heart. Wow how romantic. Yes this was a weird book.

Still is doesn’t mean it didn’t keep my interest. I just didn’t really care if the Martians or Qasar came out on top. In fact I was kind of rooting for the Martians and they some bad hombres. Qasar does survive at the end but there was no third book in the series so his story seems over. I do love the Mars Attacks idea and loved the first book and the various comic book incarnations from Topps, Image and IDW. Perhaps in the future we may get some new books in the series.

MARS ATTACKS MARTIAN DEATHTRAP BY NATHAN ARCHER

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Copyright 1996.

The Martians have invaded and no place is safe. A group of bikers are riding down the highway when the Martian ships start strafing the highway. Bud Garcia manages to survive but his buddies Lenny, Blitz and Screwy Joe aren’t so fortunate. Needing a place to hide he comes upon the Gelman Mansion. A rich millionaire named Ebenezer Gelman build a huge place with secret passages and filled it with weird antiques and other kooky stuff. Now it is a tourist attraction. Bud finds the tourists watching the attack on TV. Meanwhile the Martians come on this place and leave a squad to check it out and see if its a threat to their invasion. Now the survivors are trapped in this crazy mansion with a Martian deathsquad. Outside are giant insects that the Martians unleashed but can’t control. Both sides are trapped and must fight each other and the insects if they are to survive.

Back in 1962 the Topps Bubblegum Company released a line of trading cards. These cards combined an H.G. Wells type invasion with the true horrors of war. They were gruesome and quickly banned to protect innocent young minds. The cards became a cult collectible. In 1995 the Topps company released these cards and a comic book series. When the Tim Burton movie came out two books were released based on the comic books. This is the first.

This was a fun book. I am a fan of the comic book series and someday I will cover it on my comic blog. It is just a pure cheezy adventure filled with Martians gunning down and torturing people including young boys. The humans come in a wide variety from the hero biker Bud to the parents who seem to not be concerned that their boys were killed by the Martians. There is a phony mobster who is really an accountant but pretends to be a wiseguy to pick up girls. His showgirl date Tiffany who goes full Rambo with a captured Martian gun and gets captured and tortured. A group of college students who were on the beach and arrive at the mansion still in their swimwear. Even the Martians are treated as individuals and get own personality quirks. Indeed they are just grunts dropped off and trying to survive themselves. Add to this the giant insects like the beetles that bit a woman in two or a giant mosquito who impales a man this is just a fun B-movie ride.

I think the Gelman Mansion is based on the House on the Rock in Spring Green Wisconsin. It is a crazy place filled with old antiques and other strange exhibits. I know when I first when there and was just expecting a house on the rock but it is so much more. I recommend visiting if your in the area.

CITY OF PAIN BY JOHN TERRA

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Copyright 1994.

A renegade priest from the Cyberpapacy has escaped to Berlin. He has a program called the Fourth Seal. A program that could cause untold destruction. NATO sends a team of Storm Knights lead by Major Havoc. Havoc is a Mystery Man from the Nile. Berlin has been invaded by both the Tharkhold a realm of techno-demons and the Nile Empire. Both realities are competing for control of the city. They ally with the Vanguard a group of superheroes from the Nile Empire lead by Destructo Don. They also get help from some cyberpunks, two agents of the German government who are transformed by the invading realities and a mysterious techno-shaman from Tharkhold. Against them are the supervillainess Scarlet Asp and her team. Tharkhold prince of Berlin Vutark. Cyberpriests from the Cyberpope in France. Ninjas from Kanawa corporation from Nippon Tech and various demons and street gangs.

This is the final Torg book ever written and John Terra’s second. He did a complete 180 in tone and style. This one has a whole slew of characters and subplots. There is a lot more action and this is a fun book. He uses the team that he created for the game and was in one of his short stories. I suppose the only complaint is that there was too many characters in this book. You have groups fighting a cyberdragon at a castle. a romance with the ninja character Daremo who loses his love and goes on a revenge spree against the Kanawa corporation and their army of ninjas. The renegade Hospitaller from the Cyberpope creating an angel persona and going vigilante on the evil gangs. Fights with cyber skinhead gangs and gangsters with laser Tommy guns. Various betrayals and reality transformations. It starts to get hard to keep track of. Still it all came together at the end with a big final free for all battle. It was a fun and enjoyable end to the series. Perhaps new books might be written. The role-playing game is making a comeback so too might the fiction books.

INTERVIEW WITH EVIL BY JOHN TERRA

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Copyright 1993.

A reporter comes to Illmound Keep to get an interview with the Gaunt Man. He decides to grant her one and so tells of his origin. On the planet Geos which is similar to Earth with seventeenth century level technology. This planet has no gods or organized religion. Instead there are cults based on sorcery. The Gaunt Man was a normal man who was chosen as the leader of the Cult of the Nameless One. In a ceremony he actually sees the Nameless One. This changes him to the shriveled walking corpse that becomes the Gaunt Man. His new found power leads him to a trip far underground where he finds Heketon one of the darkness devices that the Nameless One has spread throughout the dimensions.

Using the device he lays waste to his home world and threatens that some time in the future he will return to finish the planet off. Then he invades his first world Kantovia. This world is filled with humans that are changelings. The Dire Wolves are the most powerful and this world also has a high lord that wields a darkness device. He makes friends with this high lord and slowly finds allies to turn to his darkness and eventually destroy Kantovia and drain it of it’s possibilities.

This book tells the origin of the Gaunt Man the leader of the High Lords in their invasion of Earth. Apparently he managed to get out of his predicament from the beginning trilogy and is back in power. An interesting story in it fills in some knowledge about him. How he became a High Lord. How the gospog, the evil plants that are reanimated corpses, came about. It is told as a narrative in the first person so it has a very intimate feel for this character. The only negative is the Gaunt Man is pure evil. He enjoys causing pain, terror and destruction and this book is him successfully doing this. It can be a downer to have a whole book dedicated to his campaign of evil. Not very uplifting. Still this is an interesting book and informative for those that enjoy the TORG universe.