The Alexandrian

The Tank Lords - David DrakeI didn’t mean to read this book.

Awhile back I downloaded all of the free e-books offered through the Baen Library, which included The Tank Lords by David Drake. These got carefully sorted into the rest of my personal e-library, which includes purchases and digital back-ups of books I own in hardcopy.

I remember that I was looking for a digital copy of Asprin’s Myth-ion Improbable because I’d left the paperback copy I was reading at home. I remember discovering that I didn’t have it in my e-library.

I have absolutely no memory of changing directories, opening up The Tank Lords, and beginning to read. But I must have, because a few minutes later I was hooked.

The Tank Lords is a collection of short stories written between 1979 and 1997. It includes “Under the Hammer”, “Rolling Hot”, “Night March”, “Code-Name Firefeitz”, and “The Tank Lords”.

What these stories all have in common are Hammer’s Slammers, a company of mercenaries led by Colonel Hammer across a post-Diaspora galaxy of strife and turmoil. The Slammers’ calling cards are their super-tanks — monstrous, hovering arsenals of fusion-powered firepower.

The result, informed by Drake’s own experience in Vietnam, is an addictive example of what military SF is capable of: A far-flung future provides a perfect backdrop for all the drama, excitement, wonder, and tragedy inherent in humanity’s passion for war. Drake excels not only in vividly portraying his action-packed battle sequences, but also grounds his stories in the profound impact those battles have upon the individuals caught in their midst.

These stories, although at times deeply moving, are not profound or life-changing works. I’m not going to declare them literary triumphs. But they deliver, hard and true. I was compelled to keep the pages turning, and now that I’ve finished The Tank Lords I’m hungry for more. The only question is whether I hunt down the Baen paperbacks or wait for the hardbacks being released by Night Shade Books.

GRADE: B+

(Particularly notable in this collection is “Rolling Hot”, which I would give an A-.)

David Drake
Published: 1997
Publisher: Baen Books
Cover Price: $6.99
ISBN: 0-671-87794-1
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