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Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Book Review — Fallen Dragon, by Peter F. Hamilton

Filed under: Reading — Tags: , — mikewb1971 @ 10:59 PM (22:59)

Book review –

Fallen Dragon, by Peter F. Hamilton

I never figured that I’d end up as a fan of Hamilton’s work when I first saw the covers of the Greg Mandel series in the bookstores. Nor I suspect that when I saw the Night’s Dawn trilogy. But curiousity got the better of me . . . here I am. Now, every time I visit the local bookstore, I check the skiffy section to see if Hamilton has any new releases in paperback[1].

The story starts out when Sgt. Lawrence Newton, a trooper (or as the Brits say, “squaddie”) with Zantiu-Braun’s “strategic security” division, hears about an upcoming Z-B “asset realization” mission to the colony world of Thallspring. “Asset realization” is a fancy double-talk label for a corporate-sponsored pillaging mission. Picture if, before the American Revolution (or after the Revolution up to the War of 1812), a task force of the Royal Navy sailed into a small American harbor under the sponsorship of the of the Plymouth Company. Upon entry to the harbor, the task force would then shell an area outside of the town based at the harbor, send in the Marines, and insist that the town’s leaders allow the Company’s representatives to take what they want from the town[2].

That’s exactly what Zantiu-Braun’s fleet does – upon arrival in orbit around Thallspring, they deploy communications and surveillance satellites, and the Z-B management rep, a Simon Roderick, contacts Thallspring’s head of state and presents Z-B’s demands after nuking several square kilometers (or miles, if you prefer) of land outside of the planetary capital with a ship-mounted gamma-ray projector. And it’s all legal back on Earth – interstellar colonies never turned out to be a big money-maker for their corporate sponsors, and Z-B had bought out the company that funded the colonization of Thallspring.

Going back to the analogy of the Plymouth Company-sponsored raid by the Royal Navy and Marines on an American coastal town, I suspect that people would get fed up with the raid and the occupation in short order, a resistance of some sort would start, and there would be dead Redcoats in the streets shortly.

In Fallen Dragon, the Resistance (captial “R” or lower-case “r” ?) goes by the unofficial slogan or nickname of “Killboy,” and outdoes the operational security of the spontaneous, semi-organized uprising that Henry Bowman starts in John Ross’ Unintended Consequences — the Thallspring “organization” makes NO attempt to place editorials or classified adverts in the news media, they make NO effort to contact anyone in either Thallspring’s government or in the Zantiu-Braun hierarchy. They do their best to make their hits against Z-B personnel look like accidents, vandalism or uncoordinated attacks by “lone wolves”. As Roderick is wondering if the mission will actually turn a profit, the Resistance’s coup de grace comes as they frame one of Newton’s squaddies for rape.

Platoon 435NK9 (as are all of the Zantiu-Braun squaddies) is confined to barracks after a series of bar brawls involving the squaddies and locals, but Pvt. Hal Grabowski is climbing the walls – Hal just has to get laid, by hook or by crook. One night Grabowski sneaks out of the barracks after lights out, hires a taxi to take him to a “whorehouse” in a residential area. Once there, Hal pays the madam, has his fun, and is back in the barracks before wake-up call. Imagine his surprise when he’s awakened by the local cops, esocrted by Z-B military police, and accused of raping the mayor’s daughter.

On top of Zantiu-Braun’s official mission, Sgt. Newton has plans of his own. The reason that Newton requested that his platoon be assigned to this mission is that he plans to do a little raiding of his own on the side. It’s after that the Newton gathers the squaddies around and asks them to take part in his private raiding party to the backwater-but-sophisticated town of Arnoon.

As a kid, he always wanted to be the captain of an exploration starship, but his father already had plans for him – plans that involved him staying at home. Add to that the fact that the corporate starship sponsors didn’t see exploration as a big money-maker, so they were cutting back their efforts. Still, Newton wanted to be on a starship, so he ran away from home and signed up with Z-B’s strategic security division to get his foot in the door.

So Newton does a few tours in strategic security and applies to Zantiu-Braun’s starflight academy. He passes the entrance tests, only to be told that there are equally-qualified candidates who have invested more in the company – in essence, “Thanks for your interest, but try again later.” So after twenty years wearing a Skin, he figures that he should be able to come out ahead with his own private stake.


FOR FURTHER REFERENCE

  1. Fallen Dragon Wikipedia page
  2. Summary of Fallen Dragon on the Official Peter F. Hamilton site.

NOTES

  1. Books originally published in Britain take a while to be released in America (two years on average), and when they do get here, the covers are usually different from the original release.
  2. Considering the distances involved, perhaps I should have used a remote Pacific island for my analogy – the trip from Earth to Thallspring (each way) is fifty days – three days of launching and loading personnel and gear from Earth to low Earth orbit and to Centralis Station at the Earth-Moon L4 point, then 46 days from Centralis to Thallspring.
  3. Approximate reading level – 14.3

Copyright © 2007 Mike Blessing. All rights reserved.
Produced by KCUF Media, a division of Extropy Enterprises.
This blog entry created with Notepad++.

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