Quick Hits: Killer and Expendables 1 — The Deathworms of Kratos

The pseudonymous Richard Avery’s The Expendables 1: The Deathworms of Kratos is decidedly an artifact of the ’70s. It is fast, fun science-fiction, replete with action, off-page sex, and a Dirty Dozen-esque cast. These last, the eponymous Expendables, are tasked with determining (“proving”) whether or not worlds light years distant from Earth are safe for human habitation. After reading this one, I’d pick up another if I come across it in a used bookstore.

David Drake and Karl Edward Wagner collaborated on Killer. I’ve read the abbreviated version in David Drake’s Vettius and His Friends and thought I knew what I was in for. I did not. Killer is punch-dagger brutal. It is, if I must apply labels, not historical fiction, but rather historical science-fiction, set in the relatively early Roman Empire. It presents a bleak, cruel picture of the universe. It is unsparing, even horrific. Yet it does, on its own terms, arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. Drake, I assume, was responsible for the bits of historical verisimilitude. I wonder if Wagner provided the bleak outlook. Good stuff, but not for the squeamish. You have been warned. A couple of thoughts I had while reading: At times I couldn’t help but be reminded of the film Predator II. The two protagonists are reminiscent of Vettius and Dama to some degree in character but more so in their interpersonal dynamic.

Now for an announcement. (Imagine here the world’s briefest drum roll.) I will be a panelist again at Orycon this year, October 18-20. If you are in PDX that weekend, drop by and say hello. I’m curious to see how two years away will affect my reaction to autumn in the Pacific Northwest.

Before I go, here is the obligatory sales pitch. Buy my books. They are good. You will probably enjoy them.


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