The Marines were told it was a simple peasant rebellion-
but the mission proved to be far deadlier.Gunny Charlie Bass isn't the only Marine mystified by the order sending the entire 34th to put down a few seditious serfs on planet Kingdom. Rumors swirl of a deadly alien invasion. But few believe that such sentient beings exist. Except Gunny Bass and the Marines of the 3rd platoon, who once fought enemy aliens called Skinks-fierce, fanatical fighters with hideous weapons who attack for no other reason but to kill.Then, while slogging through Kingdom's fetid swamps, the Marines are attacked by awesome unseen weapons that could destroy half a platoon with one shot. Clearly they are facing no normal enemy. And if their adversaries are Skinks, one FIST isn't enough. Third platoon's orders are to penetrate deeper into the bloody jungle hell-and find out what happens when a few good men bite the bullet.
The ninth novel in Sherman and Cragg's classic military SF series (First to Fight, etc.), the strongest entry yet, has earned a well-deserved promotion to hardcover. In the 25th century, those in trouble can still call on the Marines. Having driven the alien Skinks off the planet Kingdom, the guys of the all-male 34th Fleet Initial Strike Team (FIST) are going back to base, to receive new people, promote old ones and restore their morale with beer, steak and willing women. Back on Kingdom, however, the dictatorship of Dominic de Tomas has turned into something frighteningly like the Third Reich. Part of this Nazi resemblance is tongue-in-cheek (e.g., the Leader has a fat sidekick, Senior Stormleader Herten Gorman), but the vividly described labor camps are anything but funny. And on a farm, a man with amnesia nicknamed "Military Operations" because he knows something about war is organizing the farmers to resist de Tomas and his thugs. As he recovers his memory, he realizes that the farmer's daughter is in love with him. The Leader's minions carrying off the daughter to be de Tomas's consort/love slave ensures non-stop action for the book's last third. The authors have avoided the implausible scenarios and interservice rivalries of some past volumes. This is state-of-the-art military SF. (Dec. 2) Forecast: Sherman is a Marine veteran of Vietnam, Cragg a retired Army sergeant. The politically correct may have trouble with the lack of female soldiers la Honor Harrington, but the traditional male audience at which this is targeted will have no complaints. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 30, 2002
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Excerpt from Starfist: Kingdom's Swords by Dan Cragg
Clouds made the night so dark a Soldier of the Lord would have had to step on a raider to know one was in the area, and the rain and thunder masked what little noise the raiders made as they crawled through the muck and ground cover toward the Army of the Lord outpost. Lack of visibility didn't bother the raiders; their plan was detailed, they knew their routes. Nor did the rain bother them. The receptors that lined their sides detected and located life-forms, could tell the difference between their own kind and others and were more effective in the rain than on a clear, dry night.
The Soldiers of the Lord were all gathered in their barracks or in the duty office. None of them manned the observation posts; on a night like this, they knew, there would be no one about to guard against. Most of the eighteen soldiers in the duty office ignored the displays from the remote sensors; the effectiveness of the sensors was seriously reduced in severe weather, and they were unlikely to detect the approach of any mass smaller than a mob or an army, though no mob or army would be on the move on such a night. The Soldiers of the Lord had grown to like dark and stormy nights, for it gave them a break from the toils of guard duty at that remote outpost.
Which was why the raiders selected a dark, stormy night.
A Master led the night's raid, though with only fifty Fighters slithering and crawling toward the barracks and duty office, it needed no more than a Leader in command. This raid was the first direct strike in several months against the Army of the Lord, and the Over Master in command of operations in that sector of Kingdom greatly desired certainty of success.
Sword Worshipful, the duty noncommissioned officer, briefly glowered at the displays. He took security duty in the farming lands more seriously than most; he thought most of the soldiers in the outpost risked their immortal souls with their laxness. But glowering at the displays did nothing to improve their efficiency.
"I am going to make the rounds," Sword Worshipful announced.
The other soldiers looked at him curiously as he donned his slicker. What posts would he check? Everyone who should be manning a post was huddled in the duty office, reading sacred tracts, talking, or sinfully playing cards. There were no manned posts for him to make the rounds of.
"Soldier Truth, Soldier Hellsbane, come with me."
Soldiers Truth and Hellsbane grumbled at having to leave the dryness and warmth of the duty office, but they didn't grumble loudly or long; Sword Worshipful was an easy taskmaster, but a harsh disciplinarian. They shrugged into slickers and picked up their weapons, then stood next to the exit while Sword Worshipful gave instructions to the assistant duty noncom