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cover "...Don't Mean Nothin', Snake..."
Rolling Hot
David Drake
<<NOTE: This novel is currently available as part of the David Drake collection, The Tank Lords, i give an estimated over all rating of about 3.5 stars to the collection as a whole.>>
cover shot
This is, in many ways, the best that David Drake has given us yet. Certainly, it's the best of the "Hammer's Slammers" series.

In a war not unlike the one in which Drake and i both found ourselves involved a while back, an ad-hoc unit of odds and sods finds itself rolling hot to try to relieve their employer's provincial capital.

While these are members of Hammer's Slammers, the deadliest mercenary unit going, they are hardly the Slammers' finest, ranging from maintenance personnel pressed into service as the crew of a patched-up tank to their task group's CO, Capt. Peggie Ranson, who is just this side of a Section 8, to a civilian reporter, who accidentally winds up along for the ride, and furnishes a viewpoint for the reader.

It is this viewpoint (one of several from which Drake tells the story) that makes this book, in my opinion, just about Drake's best -- by giving us someone a lot like ourselves, putting us inside his head and then putting him through an accelerated version of the hardening process that produces a professional soldier from a raw replacement, Drake shows us even more starkly than usual, that war is, indeed hell. And why.

Drake is not going to let us get away from war without rubbing our noses in it; he wants the reader to see soldiers as people, not expendables, like bullets. He wants to show people who haven't Seen The Elephant what war is, and to -- just maybe -- convince a few of us that War Is Not A Good Thing.

Reading this book can be harrowing, as you watch men and women who are at least recogniseable and often sympathetic characters kill and die. If you can read it, watch those characters fighting and dying, and not find yourself in some sort of emotional state as you read Chapter 13, which is a slightly-less-formal version of a military arrival report of Task Force Ranson's arrival in the capital, listing the few remaining vehicles and personnel from those that they rolled with, then you have Not Been Listening.

"...still i wonder why -- the worst of men must fight and the best of men must die..." -- that was the question when Woodie wrote "Reuben James"; it's still the question.

One of the absolutely most revealing looks at the military mind and what the military actually DOES that i have ever read.

{For musical accompaniment to this book, may i suggest
"Drive On", by Johnny Cash, on his "American Recordings" CD, "Johnny Come Lately" by Steve Earle on "Copperhead Road", "Bad Moon Risin'" by Creedence Clearwater and "Sam Stone", by John Prine...}.