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The Last Legion
Chris Bunch
Roc Books, 352 pages

The Last Legion
Chris Bunch
Chris Bunch is the co-author (with Allan Cole) of the Sten series and the Anteros trilogy from Del Rey. On his own, he is the author of the Shadow Warrior, another SF series from Del Rey. Both Ranger and airborne-qualified, Chris Bunch was part of the first troop commitment into Vietnam, a patrol commander and later a combat correspondent for Stars & Stripes. Later, he edited outlaw motorcycle magazines and wrote for such magazines as Look magazine and Rolling Stone. He even wrote for prime-time television.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Demon King
SF Site Review: The Seer King

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Todd Richmond

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The Last Legion is a return to a modern SF setting for Chris Bunch after his Demon King series. It's a good start to what is quite clearly the first of a new series. Those acquainted with Bunch's previous work will find themselves in familiar territory. Take a couple of criminals, drop them into a brewing mess of interstellar war, racial prejudice and guerrilla warfare, and watch what happens.

In the first couple of chapters we meet our "heroes." Njangu Yoshitaro is a professional thief who, despite all of his careful planning, gets caught by some not-so-honest cops. Rather than a mind wipe, or life on a prison planetoid, Yoshitaro chooses the third option offered to him: enlistment in the Confederation's Army. Elsewhere in the Confederation, a recruiter's prayers are answered as Garvin Jaansma, a tall, well-built, handsome young man -- a born leader -- walks into his office and asks to join up. He is not, of course, quite as perfect as he appears to be. Jaansma and Yoshitaro meet a bit later as they are boarding the Malvern, the ship that will take them to the Cumbre system and their new home with Strike Force Swift Lance.

To Petr Kipchak, a veteran soldier, they appear at first to be typical, naïve young recruits. But both quickly demonstrate that they have some "special" skills and can take care of themselves. So when the Malvern is intercepted and captured by the Protector from Larix and Kura, Kipchak takes Jaansma and Yoshitaro with him when he escapes. They make it to the Cumbre system in a lifeboat, where no one believes that the Protector could be responsible. The seizure of the Malvern is attributed to pirates and the three men are told to keep quiet. Intelligent men that they are, they do as they are told and begin their training. Kipchak and Yoshitaro join the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Company while Jaansma becomes a gunner in the infantry.

The books of Chris Bunch all have a few things in common. They are well-written books with complex plots, intrigue, and great descriptive narratives of battle and combat. The Last Legion is no exception. There are other similarities; Jaansma and Yoshitaro may remind you of Sten from Bunch and Cole's Sten series, or Joshua Wolfe from the Shadow Warrior series. Bunch's books tend to have male protagonists who are skilled warriors, with a certain disrespect for authority and in possession of a mixed bag of questionable skills.

The Last Legion marches into some new territory, dealing with racial prejudice, class separation, and the difficulty of dealing with guerilla warfare against an indigenous population. You know you're going to like Jaansma and Yoshitaro when they both take on bigots who are physically or verbally abusing the 'Raum.

I only have a couple of criticisms regarding The Last Legion. I would have liked to have seen more of the clever planning, the 'dirty tricks,' and the intrigue that are so typical of Bunch's books. There's a bit of that, but not as much as in some of his other books. Maybe that will come later. The other point is regarding the various ranks used in the Legion. What do caud, tweg, finf, mil, dec, alt and cent mean to you? Anything? How about sergeant, lieutenant, corporal, major, or general? While you can probably figure out what the various ranks mean by the time you finish the book, the nonstandard names really don't add anything to the story, so what's the point?

Fans of Bunch's previous books will not be dissatisfied with The Last Legion. While there are no big surprises, neither are there any disappointments. And if you enjoy The Last Legion, I highly recommend that you seek out the his earlier Sten series.

Copyright © 1999 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.


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