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Patriots
David Drake
Tor Books, 240 pages

Patriots
David Drake
David Drake is a veteran of the only independent armored regiment assigned to Vietnam. He has written over a dozen books, including his critically acclaimed Hammer's Slammers series, his recent fantasy novel, Lord of the Isles, and Northworld.

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A review by Thomas Myer

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The only thing worse than being stuck in a rut is trying to break out of a rut and be something you're not.

Maybe Drake was in a rut. Nice big military SF stories with oodles of machismo, tons of payload, and nuke-em-till-they-glow plotlines. That's cool. Sometimes the nuke-em-till-they-glow response feels pretty good. But I'll stop talking about the kids in my neighborhood.

When I received my copy of Patriots, I had to read the opening scene six times. Not because it was bad writing, or a complex scene. Nope. This novel does not start with a platoon of 200-ton tanks rushing the berms on some distant hellhole planet, nor does it open with a withering artillery barrage. And I've come to expect that from Drake -- sneaky guy.

Patriots centers on three normal, everyday civilians: Mark Maxwell, son of a famous attorney, recent Harvard graduate, out for a year-long swing through the galactic frontier; Yerby Bannock, a rough mountain man (about the size of a mountain) and unenthusiastic leader of a planetary revolution à la Ethan Allen; and Yerby's younger sister Amy, who runs around recording la revolucion with a 3-D camcorder. 

Their struggle is against Old Earth, which holds the hundred or so worlds of the human diaspora in economically and politically arrested development. To enforce back-home politics, Earth routinely colonizes wayward planets with hundreds of thousands of despicables and renegades, which the Terran politicians don't want hanging around anyway. So folks get fed up, start resisting. Although it's not so much revolution as it is Interstellar NIMBY.

No big battles. No budding romance between Mark and Amy, though they gave it the old college try. Can't blame them for being stiff-armed by a G-rated plot. All the cool stuff is reported second-hand, or happens in those silent chasms between chapters. The takeover of the Dittersdorf arsenal, a move that supplies the rebels with enough gleaming hardware to bootstrap the Apocalypse, is anticlimactic -- hell, even Beckettian. Think Waiting for Godot meets a Senate subcommittee session on deregulating the escargot industry.

With about 200 more pages of development, some chunky battle scenes, and a little sex to distract us from the plot, this would have made a fine addition to anyone's SF collection. As it stands, this book is not only unpalatable, its unremarkable.

Copyright © 1998 by Thomas Myer

Thomas Myer has never watched Seinfeld or Cheers. He writes a bad novel every summer.


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