Review: The Weapon

I first read Michael Z. Williamson in Afghanistan. One of the many books on my now deceased PDA was Freehold, a thoroughly entertaining story about a war between the monolithic UN (now running all of Earth) and a small independent planet-state full of really pissed off individuals. They're all armed. It's great fun, if rather grim. (I'm not a big fan of the UN. The UN of the future (as painted by Williamson) is depressingly believable.) Anyway, the story is told through the perspective of a UN refugee who flees to the planet Freehold and then assimilates into the society, eventually leading forces against her former state.

I next read Williamson in collaboration with John Ringo in The Hero, an excellent book set in the latter's Legacy of the Aldenata universe. This book takes place many years later than most of the books in the series, and is a war fought on a much smaller scale; one of the Amazon reviewers called it a character study, but since I skipped out of ENG 105, I'll take his word for it. I enjoyed it greatly, and it may actually be more accessible than the main series for someone just interested in sampling the universe. You can find it in free ebook form here, courtesy of the authors, Baen Books (their publisher), and the nice gentleman at who mirrors the CD-ROMs.

I do blather on so.

One of the key elements in the end game of Freehold was the massive destruction and chaos caused on Earth by Freehold's special forces troops. This brings us to The Weapon, the tale of the training and eventual employment of the SF soldier who masterminded the Earth campaign.

The main character is almost an SF archetype, rather than a character. He's good at everything, insanely talented and trained in every military talent known to mankind--this takes approximately three weeks--and only occasionally tortured by doubts. The Freeholder SF machine is as unbelievably well-resourced and well-run as the UN military is realistically jacked up and handicapped by political correctness. Much of the book comes off as a sort of military daydream/fantasy--"How would I build and train an SF soldier if I had nothing but resources and political backing?" The actual engagements leading up to the war are a little more believable, as political realities frequently force the protagonist to conduct warfare with one hand tied behind his back--being the super awesome badass that he is, this is doable.

The last third or so of the book is where it gets to the Earth campaign planning and execution. It's pretty dark, not the least because the characters (and hopefully the reader) fully grasp that most of the casualties will necessarily be noncombatants. Especially if you've read Freehold, you'll have a pretty good idea of what happens. The last bit is a grim, lone struggle for escape and survival when the protagonist is not at all certain that he a) wants to survive or b) should survive. On a general story level, this is the grimmest and most depressing--there's no happy ending here. On another level, though, this is where we really get to see what the character is made of, and he's oddly at his most likable when he's filled with self-loathing and regret.

Despite the grim nature of the tale (which does, after all, end in a billion+ body count) it's kind of a fun book. I admit to being entertained by a fantasy in which the uber-trained, uber-clever, uber-armed hero kills the bad guys by the gross, and for the same reason that I like stories with happy endings--too often in real life, the bad guys win.

Good violent fun. A little on the grim side. I will re-read it when next I'm feeling super misanthropic and angry about our foreign policy wonks kowtowing to the UN and EU. Tomorrow, maybe.

5 out of 7 orbital kinetic strikes on population centers.




This is what happens when I rush through something so I can go to bed. How many variations of the word "grim" can you spot?