SERIES REVIEW: Dirigent Mercenary Corps, Rick Shelly (Ace Books)

Cover of "Officer-cadet (Dirigent Mercena...

Cover via Amazon

Grade: E — Readable in genre, but you could probably do better.

 In brief:

This series follows the career of a young soldier in the far future, from his days as a Cadet to his eventual rise to being a Colonel.  In that sense, it is vaguely reminiscent of a science fiction version W. E. B. Griffin‘s Brotherhood Of War series.  the Dirigent Mercenary Corps (or DMC as I will call it) starts strong with its first volume,  Officer Cadet and has a good installment with its second offering Lieutenant, but begins to falter after that.  While remaining readable, it starts becoming much of a muchness (as my dear Pater used to say), and lost my interest. 


Set in a Space Operatic far future with interstellar travel, this tale focuses on a Mercenary unit whose existence dominates the economy of a colonized world.  The tale moves from settled world to settled world as the mercenaries are hired to settled the problems of different worlds through use of arms.

In Depth:

As you may have gathered by now, I do like Military Fiction a good deal, and as far as it goes, this series is okay for what it is.  It follows Lon Nolan’s career through the service, starting with his mission as a Cadet (which basically puts him in combat like any enlisted man) and follows his progress, mission by mission, up to his eventual rank of Colonel.  As far as it goes, that is perfectly fine.  It is action based and primarily focuses on the combat elements, which is why one buys MilFic in the first place.  Unfortunately, round about the time we get to Captain, the stories are not only sounding a bit too similar, but there is a bit of a break in his career progression as well. 

 I like the idea of following an officer up through the ranks, as Griffin did in his seminal Brotherhood of War series, but in order for that to work, it needs to be a study in the difference that each rank and its duties are about.  To that end, DMC starts strongly by giving us a grounding in what the enlisted men do, then moves quickly on by showing us Nolan’s life leading a platoon as a Lieutenant.  Unfortunately, he keeps that rank for most of the Captain volume as well.  As a result, during that volume, where the title would lead one to believe we’d be seeing how he leads a Company, we actually see him still leading a platoon.  Not much progression, and thus the stories begin to meld with one another.

 Having found the Starfist series, I put the DMC series down at that point and never picked it up again.  To be fair, I keep meaning to, but as that there are Major,     Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel volumes to plow through, it seems a fairly big investment to keep reading when there are so many other books out there.  If you see a copy and feel like a MilFic read, its worth picking up… but only if there is nothing else that really catches your fancy.


About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
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5 Responses to SERIES REVIEW: Dirigent Mercenary Corps, Rick Shelly (Ace Books)

  1. readysetpitch says:

    I think your reviews as brain food.
    Thank you!

  2. angelarimali says:

    Okay, at the risk of sounding like an idiot… aren’t Military Sci Fi stories all about guns and ships and battles and stuff? I like good a good action scene as much as the next girl, but for me to care it has to have some characters I care about and preferably something a bit deeper than the only good bug is a dead bug….

    • Thomas Evans says:

      Actually… no. Compare, for example, Starship Troopers (no.. not the movie, that you are quoting from, but the Robert Heinlien book) and The Forever War, by Joe Halderman. Yes, both are about life in the military, but Heinlien puts forward a political agenda which is the opposite of Halderman’s… and each is a good book in its own right that make commentary (not subtle in either case) about social issues beyond the scope of military life.

  3. Pingback: SERIES REVIEW: Dirigent Mercenary Corps, Rick Shelly (Ace Books) (via The Archaeologist’s Guide to the Galaxy.. by Thomas Evans) « Angela's Blog About Blogs

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