Book: Janissaries by Jerry Pournelle

Fun, uncomplicated military science fiction

Jerry Pournelle
Baen, 1996 (originally published in 1979)
ISBN: 0-671-87709-1
245 pages

A few months ago, over at, Jo Walton recommended Jerry Pournelle's book Janissaries as a splendid example of uncomplicated military science fiction. (Her post is here. It contains more spoilers for the book than this one does.) And the book is that, or very nearly. It's also fun to read recognizably modern SF that was written 30 years ago. A videoconference via flat-screens is in the realm of science fiction and there's a character who thinks that it's natural to do calculations using a table of logarithms.

As the book begins, it's the Cold War and a small group of American soldiers is fighting in Africa. They're losing to Cuban troops. Then a flying saucer shows up and they end up in one of those situations in which it's a lucky thing that one of our plucky group has made a study of military history. All in all, the book is uncomplicated fun. Take, for example:

        "We don't have to stay here--"
        "No," Rick said. "We don't have to. But I'm not running
    this time. I've given up running."
    (p. 141)

In my opinion the ending is marred slightly by some talky exposition that seems intended to set up some sequels that are only sort of available. But the book is still good fun.

Posted: Tue - January 6, 2009 at 07:24 PM   Main   Category: