Wasn’t sure about this book when I started reading it. Marines aren’t usually involved in creating empires nor are they involved in supporting an Emperor. In most stories, Marines are fighting against the forces of an evil empire trying to restore a democracy! This one just starts off assuming you’ll have loyal Marines as part of the Earth Empire.
I like the attitude of the main character, Captain Edward Stalker. Straight off the bat, he’s assigned a stupid and costly mission, trying to quell a riot in the middle of a trouble mega-city. He’s not given enough troops and he’s not really told how he’s supposed to restore order but he does his job anyway, the best way he knows how. He is away that he needs to keep civilian causalities to a minimum but sometimes they just do stupid things and get themselves killed. But, Capt. Stalker and his men/women get the job done.
Of course he gets hauled to the carpet for his actions by the Grand Senate who don’t like the way he did things. Too many civilians were injured (even if they were trying to kill the Marines) and they destroyed way too much property. But, young Stalker isn’t one to back down from authority. He shocks the Grand Senate by telling them that they are to blame for the deaths and the destruction in the first place. He reads them the riot act like a Marine knows how and then stomps out of the Senate Chambers!
A good way to end a career, you think? Well, it turns out that his career is going to take a completely different path. He gets called in to the Commandant of the Marine Corps office and told that he’s going on a rather long deployment. The Commandant explains that this assignment is going to serve two immediate purposes. One, it gets a contingent of Marines off planet Earth so they can survive if the planet falls into chaos like it appears that it may, and two, it gets Captain Stalker and his men/women away from the Grand Senate who wants to hang, imprison, execute or otherwise seriously mess with their lives. The Commandant tells Capt. Stalker that he will take two platoons of his company and board a starship bound for the far outer rim of the know galaxy and the Earth Empire and deliver a college professor and his family to a planet called Avalon. There he will be a representative of the Empire and do what he needs to do to fulfill that role.
In reality, Capt. Stalker and his men are being exiled as far away from Earth as possible and they will never return. It is believed that the Earth Empire is about to collapse and there are not enough Marines in the entire galaxy to keep it from happening. I believe the Commandant wants to save as much of the Marine Corps as he can while he has a chance.
Capt. Stalker executes his mission as smoothly as possible. His contingent lands on Avalon and establishes a base of operations that is fortunately secluded from the capital city. He finds that this planet isn’t in much better shape than Earth except there are many fewer people to deal with and their problems can be fixed by application of his Marines. So he beings eradicating an apparent planet-wide bandit problem. He then has to sit down and stop a revolution that is attempting to get rid of the existing government.
He accomplishes both of these tasks without much problem all the while using only about 19 Marines. You do realize that his two platoons of Marines came with a heavy weapons squad, some supply and admin types, plus a group of doctors and medical personnel. He didn’t actually have that many Marines riflemen/women in the two platoons but the ones that were there were the best of the best. He also has some Marine pilots who can apparently fly anything including the attack helios that he brought from Earth.
So, why couldn’t these 19 Marines tame a planet that hadn’t even developed air travel? Remember this is a science fiction story so anybody can do anything. I don’t understand how some writers just assume that anyone can control what happens on an entire planet! There are only 19 Marines on this entire planet yet they seem to be able to get anywhere any time they want. They also seem to know what is happening all the time and can react to anything no matter where it’s happening on the planet. You really have to let your thinking just stop to actually believe anything in this story could happen the way it does.
The author fortunately makes most things happen only a few miles away from the Marines base. This makes it very easy for the Marines to fly over there and kill everyone and then return to base.
So, if you can believe that so few can do so much, then you’ll like the story. Just don’t try to understand how they get things done and don’t even think about this really being an entire planet.
The book is well written, the action is exciting and some of the gear is really science fiction. If you like military science fiction with some political idiocy included, you’ll like this book.