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Drake-Flavoured Stirling
{compilation of three novels}
Steve Earle
While i really have no ideas just who wrote how much of the three volumes comprising this book, i find in reading it that i see a lot of Stirling in the actual writing, and that the Drake elements i detect are primarily in the over-arching plot of the series as a whole.

That is, the characters and the action of the stories put me most strongly in mind of Stirling's own series in which the Coast Guard training ship Eagle and the island of Nantucket have been cast back into the distant past, and the protagonoists must work to shape history in their own favour and image. I never really felt as if i were reading descriptions of characters and situations that put me in mind of Hammer's Slammers or other Drake creations.

That said, David Drake's interest in history has clearly shaped these books; i'm fairly sure that the basic plot is derived from events and actions from late Roman ages. Although the period is not one i am particularly familiar with, it would not surprise me to learn that the protagonist is inspired by Belisarius.

Another aspect that seems more Stirling than Drake is the manner in which the campaigns and battles that make up the majority of the story are handled; again, more a matter of perception of style than of definite evidence. I am well-acquainted with the work of both, and that's the feeling i get.

As to the story (stories) itself, while not the most wonderful military sf i've ever read, there was enough of interest to keep me going, pushing along to see what was going to happen. On the other hand, if i was encountering the series for the first time in individual book form, i doubt that i would get past the first volume. Too much shooting, not enough substance.

The setup and mechanics of the stories are interesting -- i particularly like the ocncept of huge dogs replacing horses (though i doubt that they'd be as much like real dogs physically as they are protrayed, the square-cube law being what it is), and i like the way that the implications of this are worked out.

The mix of primitive and advanced (and Extremely Advanced) technology employed makes for interesting logistic considerations ("Amateurs study tactics. Professionals study logistics.") and action sequences.

The political maneuvering -- the most Drake-like parts of the story, to my taste -- is interesting, but too superficially-presented.

All in all, a good solid read for those who like Drake, Stirling or military SF in general, but not one i would advise running out and spending the rent money on. if you're not already a fan of theirs.