Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Fiction Blogging

For this springtime Friday, one of my personal favorites in the military science-fiction category: Robert Frezza.

Not sure what happened to this guy. He cranked out five novels in seven years but hasn't been heard from since the middle '90s. Three of the five are among what I consider - as insanely voracious consumer of popular fiction, retired soldier as well as science-fiction geek - among the best of the genre.

It's all there: complex, well-thought-out plots; rich characters with tangled motives, hopes and fears; and above all - lush, captivating prose.

As a stylist I defy anyone to equal the - you'd pretty much have to call her - "doyenne" of military SF, Lois M. Bujold. Her Miles Vorkosigan series is perhaps unmatched in depth and fecundity of imagination. David Drake may bring more of the reek of blood and cordite to your bedside table; S.M. Stirling may have a grander scope (although also rings a bell for sheer creepiness - a lot of his stuff has some truly twisted sexual kinks buried inside).
But Frezza can bring it - and he gets right to the heart of what makes it well that war is so terrible, else we should too fond of it. His political setting (a senescent Japanese Empire, whose colonial possessions are run - increasingly poorly - by zaibatsu) is fully realized, his concepts of future warmaking are logical and have a dramatic effect on the course of the novels, and most of all his ability to draw his characters as real people, with real problems, real wishes, real illusions...well, that's a real novelist, in my book. His Anton Vereschagin, Hanna Bruwer and Danny Meagher are as fully realized as any of the fictional people you met in school: Hamlet, Lizzy Bennett, Ramona Quimby...

The plots - not to give away anything - are straightforward: a "corporation" planet, Suid Afrika, is in rebellion against its corporate masters. Lt. Colonel Vereschagin and the 35th Infantry (Rifle) are dispatched to set things upright again. Like any good book, the fun is in the details. Afrikaner politics, imperial overstretch, G.I. cynicism, love,'s all there, and written with the effort of someone who clearly loves his characters and wants you to read their story.
I have to be honest and say that the quality falls off a bit with "Cain's Land" - the truth is that the series logically ended with the second novel "Fire In A Faraway Place". But once you've journeyed with the Imps and the Afrikaners, the cowboys and the Sects to Ashcroft, Novy Sibr and Suid Afrika, it's hard not to go along for the last ride.
Give him a try. It can be hard, teaching a pig to whistle. But the tune is worth the effort...

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