School of Fire: StarFist Book II, David Sherman and Daniel Cragg (Del Rey, 1998)

Grade: Ε — (Epsilon) Readable in genre, but you could probably do better.  

(Science Fiction, Military Science Fiction)

In brief:

School of Fire: StarFist Book II is Sherman and Cragg‘s second Military Science fiction outing into the StarFist Universe.  In this book, the best and bravest are sent on a Cadre mission to train the police force of a member world. While it is an acceptable read for MilFic fans with some interesting world and character building, it suffers from a predictable ending and some slightly slow plotting at times.  For fans of MilFic it’s perfectly fine mind candy, but for others it may not appeal.

Setting:

It’s the 25th Century, but the Marines are still looking for a few good men…

With a tag line like that, what more do you really need to know? The Starfist series follows the adventures of the 34th FIST (Fleet Initial Strike Team) Marines as they fight to defend the Confederation of worlds set around Earth. While the Confederation is the largest union of planets, it is not the only human government in the region, and as the series progresses, it becomes clear that other species are also lurking out their in the stars.

In Depth:

Like many second books in a series, School of Fire: StarFist Book II does not quite live up to the excitement of the first book, nor the interest of the subsequent books.  Fortunately, the series picks up again in later volumes, and this one can be skipped in necessary.

In essence, this book follows Charlie Bass and his platoon on a Cadre Mission: that is one where they form the core of a defense force while training others how be better soldiers.  Of course, as ever, nothing goes quite to plan and they find themselves not only fighting the local insurgents, but drawn the conspiracies that fill the local politics… conspiracies that may prove to be an even greater threat.

This premise held a great deal of promise, but unfortunately it did not quite deliver due to the transparency of the plotting.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some very good bits in this, including the personal development for a variety of the characters (particularly Hammer), and some hidden (and rude) jokes in the place names of the planet they are sent on (names that sound completely believable to anyone who has knowledge of colonial growth).  Of course, the linguistic jokes would have held more punch if the authors had been consistent in their use of German in the story, but one can forgive that if you ask me.

So, in short, this was a good enough read, but far from the best that these authors have provided. If you really like the series, it’s worth picking up, but one of the joys of StarFist is that you can skip a book (or five), and still pretty much tell what is happening in the series.  Needless to say, if you don’t like Mil Fic, you should avoid this at all costs.  If you do like it and see it on the shelf, you could do far worse… but you could do better as well (even within the StarFist series).

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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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