Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.
Janissaries Reaches a Satisfactory Conclusion
By MARK LARDAS
June 21, 2020
Mamelukes, by Jerry Pournelle, Philip Pournelle, and David Weber, Baen Books, 2020, 608 pages, $25.00 (hardcover).
In 1979 Jerry Pournelle published Janissaries, a novel about a doomed troop of CIA mercenaries in Angola. About to be annihilated by a Cubans they are offered an escape: a one-way trip to the planet Tran. They and their leader, Rick Galloway, are expected to take over the planet and oversee production of a recreational drug that can be grown there every 600 years. Sequels followed in 1982 and 1987. Then, despite the third book ending with many unanswered questions, nothing.
Mamelukes, by Jerry Pournelle, Philip Pournelle, and David Weber, continues the series.
Jerry Pournelle made several announcements on his blog that he was continuing the series. As late as 2014, he announced 151,000 words had been written, and that only the final battle remained. Then he had a stroke. He never completed the book. Jerry Pournelle died in 2017.
His son, Phillip, completed the book, with David Weber serving as editor. The result reads very much like Jerry Pournelle, rather than the collaborators.
Mamelukes picks up shortly after Storms of Victory, the third book, ends. It is 13 years after Rick Galloway and his men arrived at Tran. That sets these events in the early 1990s. Galloway holds together an uneasy alliance trying to survive the next few decades.
Two bad things will happen. First, the planet will warm uncomfortably as the eccentric orbit of one of the star systems multiple suns comes close to Tran. This allows the humans to raise the drugs demanded by the aliens who brought humans to Tran to grow this crop. Next, the aliens will bomb Tran back to the Stone Age to prevent technology from threatening their dominance when the aliens return to Tran in 600 years. Galloway and his coalition are working to preserve knowledge.
To add to Galloway’s complications, rival aliens bring a second set of Earth mercenaries to Tran to defeat Galloway and take over the drug trafficking. A second crime gang is moving into the turf. Plus renegade humans in the interstellar coalition who have been supporting Galloway send a second expedition to Tran, in case Galloway fails.
The result is pure Jerry Pournelle, a story with the mix of combat, technology, and economics that are his trademark. Mamelukes resolves the unsatisfactory aspects of Storms of Victory, settling many remaining hanging issues, yet leaving room for another sequel. Mamelukes is an unexpected bonus, Jerry Pournelle’s final gift.
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.