It almost feels as if a gap in my life has been filled. The saga of Rick Galloway and his mercenaries, whisked away by a flying saucer from a hilltop in Africa just before being overrun by Cubans, is complete at last. Maybe, anyways.
I’ve been reading the Janissaries books since I was a teen. Unfortunately, after publication of the third book, Storms of Victory, in 1987 (the year I graduated highschool), the series appeared defunct, ending on, if not a cliffhanger, at least with uncertainty. Once nigh instantaneous access to information came along, some years later, I began to check every now and then for rumors of another volume. When I learned that Jerry Pournelle was working on it, I was happy. I seem to recall even reading a few pages at his website of the work in progress. But, alas, years continued to pass. And then, tragically, he went the way of all flesh. I thought that was it.
I was very pleased to learn that David Weber, and Jerry Pournelle’s son, had completed the book. Having waited so long, I was willing to stick it out longer for the paperback, so it would fit better with the first three books. (OCD? Maybe.)
Perhaps I could have dragged out the reading of it, savoring the experience longer, but I tore through it nearly as fast as I would have as a younger man with fewer responsibilities. Now I’ve finished, and I have a few thoughts.
I liked it. It can serve as a conclusion to the series. The plot is far from wrapped up, but the book ended with an indication of how the surviving characters might proceed. I’d like more, of course. Ideally I’d be able to read how Pournelle intended to resolve the issues involving galactic politics. I’d learn if Rick ever managed a quiet retirement with Tylara. Who ends up running the show on Tran. What happens to Gwen and Les. Etc., etc. But, we learned enough that I can make some guesses. All at the end of a massive battle that occupied about the last two hundred pages.
Bringing me to another point. The hand of David Weber is clear. None of the first three books exceeded 383 pages (and those were illustrated.) Mamelukes weighs in at 822 pages. Lengthy battle planning sessions and exacting descriptions of the mechanics of sailing suggest the influence of Weber’s exhaustive style. I’m fine with it. All interesting stuff, and well done. Never dull. But I couldn’t help but wish for an alternate future in which Pournelle had been able to take those 800+ pages and produce two books, carrying the story farther.
We meet new characters. In the book chronology, at the commencement of events, it has been thirteen years since Galloway left earth. So it is interesting to introduce characters who experienced the eighties and early nineties. What are laptops? We are introduced to a highschool professor, an ex-soldier, and an ex-SF policewoman. (The policewoman is one of the plot threads left dangling at the end. Was she plotting something? Was she an agent of an alien faction?) And we meet the leaders of a British Gurkha unit, bringing along a welcome complement of 60 deadly Gurkhas.
I noted in an earlier post on Janissaries, that I believed Rick’s mercs were armed with H&K battle rifles. In the later books I raised an eyebrow on reading mention of M-16s. Mamelukes clears it up by mentioning that they were primarily armed with H&Ks, along with a few M-16s. Good enough. The Ghurkas bring the British variant of the FN FAL. They also bring along one of the bits of news that seems to shock Galloway’s men as much as word of the fall of the Soviet Union: that the US Army adopted the 9mm Beretta in place of the .45. I chuckled at that.
Will there be more? Messrs. Pournelle and Webber leave the door open for continuing the series. If they do, I’ll certainly check out the first. If not, I’m content. My imagination has been provided enough information to devise a satisfactory fate for Rick Gallowy, et al.