Monday, April 28, 2014

The Empire's Corps

I like military SF. And I liked the Foundation series of novels by Isaac Asimov. Now imagine if John Christian Falkenberg were to hook up with Hari Seldon and instead of founding the Foundation accompanies him and a bunch of soldiers into exile.

The Empire's Corps tells the story of a bunch of elite soldiers, Marines led by Captain Ed Stalker, who get in some political trouble on a future Earth. The galaxy has been settled with human colonies far and wide, all of them under the rule of the Empire. The Empire projects its will through its Marines. Captain Stalker is given a promotion to Colonel, then sent into exile to a remote colony called Avalon.

Accompanying him into exile is an academic who made the mistake of looking into the Empire's political and economic underpinnings, and discovering the Empire is about to fall. He's had his cushy professorship taken away and his family is forced to live in a bad neighborhood.
Earth is over-populated with tens of billions of people and if you're rich, you live in a nice apartment, and if you're middle class you live in a not-nice apartment, and if you're poor you live in a hellish government housing project. Social control is maintained by threatening the middle class with moving into government housing where criminal gangs run free. Step out of line, get caught, and you're shipped off to a colony world as indentured labor.

This is the Earth that Stalker and his Marines are exiled from. They are exiled to a relatively new colony called Avalon. It has a corrupt central government, rebels in the hills, as well as bandits terrorizing the countryside.

When Stalker arrives he's got a job, restore order. Trouble is that the fall of the Empire is immanent and he knows it. Avalon will be his home and he has to come up with something more stable than the status quo, that won't survive the Empire's collapse.

Happily, the only bad guys are the oligarchs running the show and the bandits in the hills. It remains for the Marines to support the government just enough to let it fall of its own weight. Along the way there are lots of nifty space infantry firefights and bad guys defeated and good guys triumphant.

There is a pretty clear message through the whole book that paternalistic central government control is a Bad Thing and that individual initiative and self-improvement is a Good Thing. I liked the Empire Corps, because it handles the military SF well enough and it provides just enough galactic politics to keep things suspenseful.

All the good guys keep getting thrown into the deep end of the pool and they figure out how to swim fairly quickly.

And if you like it, there are several sequels available. I'll be reviewing them in a little while.

The fall of a galactic empire is a Big Deal and it is a story that gets told from multiple perspectives. One thing to keep in mind is Mr. Nuttall's odd-even scheme of telling the story. The first two novels follow events on or near Avalon. Subsequent novels alternate between the Marines on Avalon, and other parties acting on Earth, in the next sector over, and back on Earth. Clearly, Mr. Nuttall is setting up a climax where these disparate threads are pulled together.

Altogether a most enjoyable read: 5-stars.

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