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Friday, March 7, 2014

"The Empire's Corps Series" by Christopher Nuttall (an overview by Liviu Suciu)

"You Should Never Speak Truth To Power…

The Galactic Empire is dying and chaos and anarchy are breaking out everywhere. After a disastrous mission against terrorists on Earth itself, Captain Edward Stalker of the Terran Marine Corps makes the mistake of speaking truth to power, telling one of the most powerful men in the Empire a few home truths. As a result, Captain Stalker and his men are unceremoniously exiled to Avalon, a world right on the Rim of the Empire. It should have been an easy posting…

Well, apart from the bandits infesting the countryside, an insurgency that threatens to topple the Empire’s loose control over Avalon, and a corrupt civil government more interested in what it can extort from the population than fighting a war. The Marines rapidly find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of political and economic chaos, fighting to preserve Avalon before the competing factions tear the world apart. They’re Marines; if anyone can do it, they can.

The battle to save the Empire starts here."

As someone who has been following Baen's Bar for more than a decade, I have heard of a promising mil-sf Baen style new author called Chris Nuttall for a while. Going the independent route, his books started appearing on Amazon a few years back, though for some time the samples I checked were not quite clicking for me. 

This until a few days ago when by chance I took a look at his Empire's Corps series - with 8 published books in the past 2 years, clearly his most successful series to date and probably the one that puts him daily in the top 10 sf bestselling writers list on Amazon

After a short description of the currently available series books from the author's website, I will discuss a little books 1 and 3 - so I do not spoil things for people wanting to discover this wonderful series, as these 2 books are just loosely related so far - noting that in the last 3 days I have read books 1-4 and I plan to read books 5-8 next, while any upcoming series novel has become a buy and read on publication. 
"The Empire’s Corps

The mainstream books follow the Marines on Avalon and run in sequence, while the stand alone books jump around chronologically

The Empire’s Corps (Mainstream Book I)

No Worse Enemy (Mainstream Book II)

When The Bough Breaks (Stand Alone – starts just after The Empire’s Corps.)

Semper Fi (Mainstream Book III)

The Outcast (Stand Alone – starts roughly four years prior to The Empire’s Corps.)

To The Shores (Mainstream Book IV)

Reality Check (Stand Alone – starts just before The Empire’s Corps.)

Retreat Hell (Mainstream Book V)"


The Empire’s Corps (Mainstream Book I)

While a fairly standard mil sf in the Baen mode, the novel worked for me from all points of view - characters, prose, setting, philosophy, in jokes and references (Joe Buckley, Tom Kratman etc). 

Thinking more about why, I would mention one very important point - lots of female lead characters - more appear as the series goes on but there are a few to start here too - and credible multicultural and diverse characters - today a modern sf novel needs that more than anything for credibility and nothing annoys me more than the lack of female leads (see the recent very disappointing Trillion Leagues Under the Sea), parochial setting with the Galaxy like an English bar of the 50's (quite a few offenders here) or stereotyping the other (David Brin's Existence is one relatively recent egregious example of such, but many sff sadly still qualify).

Somewhere between D. Weber (ideology, setting) and J. Ringo (marine hardcore stuff) and a great read all around, with the blurb accurately describing what one gets.

When The Bough Breaks (Stand Alone – starts just after The Empire’s Corps.)

This one takes place on Earth after the exile to Avalon of our heroes and shows the brutal and swift end of the empire.

Commando Belinda Lawton is sole survivor of mission gone bad so in a last authority act the marine supreme commander assigns her as personal bodyguard to spoiled teen Roland Childe who is the puppet heir of the throne marked for slow death by substance abuse by the wheelers and dealers of the senate. In parallel story-lines, we see conspiracies from great to small and a naive student snared in such and how she deals with the overwhelming...

Again not unexpected or unusual stuff - the teen emperor-to-be gets a spine but has not enough power in time, while treachery abounds - but great mixing of the ingredients and lots of narrative energy.

The same points as above apply and in later volumes the universe expansion and the character list grows as befits this kind of series when it jumps to the top rank of current mil-sf/space opera.

Highly recommended stuff, so go and check it out - no drm so even if the books are amazon exclusives, they are easily convertible and accessible on any device.


Walter Rhein said...

Interesting review, although I'm not in agreement that a book "has" to have strong female leads. Sometimes authors want to deal with issues that are decidedly male, just as other authors want to deal with issues that are decidedly female. There's nothing wrong with that, and when the author wants to take on a theme with gender significance, s/he surely will add characters of the necessary gender to achieve that goal.

Liviu said...

Depends what you write - if you write "small scale" personal books - literary, genre etc - sure, no dispute about that, though even then usually there are opposite gender people around

However if you write large(r) scale sf novels that deal with society at large and take place today or tomorrow, ignoring diversity is inexcusable imho

And even in sf that takes place in some past society like say the one that really bugged me recently - Trillion Leagues Under the Sea - the Vernian pastiche taking place in (a) 1954, while one can argue that keeping the cast all male is justified, it simply made the novel feel dated and show why doing such is not well advised today - not the disaster JC Wright's Van Vogt book was for sure, but not what i expect from Adam Roberts either and for that matter when he wrote Swiftly, he incorporated a powerful female lead in the patriarchal Jonathan Swift inspired universe

So overall, in sf - which is a genre dealing with the political hence ultimately with the organization and functioning of society - today there is really no excuse ignoring diversity

Anonymous said...

It's called credibility regardless of genre.

Many women marines have tried but only a few have passed USMC SOI -- School of Infantry -- which has been changed. If USMC had people dig fighting holes at end of forced march, no females would pass. No females have passed basic school, USMC officer infantry school.

USMC pushed back females having to do pull ups -- most would fail. How many females are on Seal Tm 6? Delta Force?

Politically correct is name of game whether we are talking real world or writing. Since the book market is over 50% female, SF is best genre for them to be included in sword, sorcery and infantry.

Thanks for tip on Empire Corps -- definite drop for me.

SgtMaj EMP

Liviu said...

The above comment contains a fallacy and an inference that was nowhere mentioned in the post; the inference was that the series Marine Corps is 50-50 male-female and actually that is not necessarily the case with the author mentioning that males were a higher proportion overall, but not overwhelmingly so that females were rare;

the fallacy is that what holds true now, will hold true in the future; having for example the combat armor which is standard in a lot of future set mil-sf including this one is a great equalizer and while sure at the margin the brawnier person may be slightly stronger in armor than a physically less imposing person, the difference will be quite unimportant overall - the march of technology clearly shows that as the armored knights or the highly skilled samurai had no chance against firearms manned by conscripted peasants, however much superior they would have been with respect to the regular people of their day...


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