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Stark's Crusade
John G. Hemry
Ace Books, 266 pages

Stark's Crusade
John G. Hemry
John G. Hemry is a retired U.S. Navy officer. His father was in the forces, so John grew up living everywhere from Pensacola, Florida to San Diego, California. He graduated from Lyons High School in Lyons, Kansas in 1974, then attended the U.S. Naval Academy (Class of '78). He lives in Maryland with his wife and three children.

John G. Hemry Website
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A review by Rich Horton

Stark's Crusade is the third of a trilogy of Military SF novels. Its predecessors were Stark's War (2000) and Stark's Command (2001). I haven't read the first two books, but apparently they involve Ethan Stark, a Sergeant in the U. S. Army, fighting on the Moon. Stark and his people were essentially betrayed by their superiors, and by the corporations who have bought the United States Government, and they were pushed to mutiny. They are defending the United States Lunar Colony, which has similarly been betrayed by the Government and the corporations. As this book opens, the United States has apparently hired mercenaries to attack Stark's people and to try to conquer the independence-minded Lunar Colony.

The balance of the story follows Stark as he learns to cooperate with the civilians of the Lunar Colony, as he fights off some more threats to his soldiers, both from without and within, and eventually as he must walk a tightrope defending the Colony from attack by the United States and their new autonomous robot soldiers, while at the same time trying not to betray the people of the United States and leave them at the mercy of their other enemies.

The book is at its best during the battle scenes, which are tensely described and fairly exciting. Unfortunately, in between the battles it bogs down in overly earnest, stilted discussions. Labored parallels with historical situations are drawn, sometimes in excruciating extended "As you know, Bob" type scenes. The thematic center of the story is actually fairly interesting -- Stark and his people are truly torn between their loyalty to the idea of the United States (as well as their oath to defend the Constitution), and between their disgust with the corrupt state of the United States at the time of the action. There is also an interesting sub-theme concerning the dangers of a separate military class. The third theme, rather stridently portrayed, goes more or less "Most enlisted men are honest and good, almost all officers are corrupt and incompetent". Unfortunately these themes are illustrated too much by unconvincing "telling" and not enough by "showing". The characters are cardboard, very hard to believe. The military tech is somewhat interesting, but the author does stack the deck suspiciously in favor of Stark.

I can't really recommend this novel. On the good side, John G. Hemry is interested in some worthwhile political/moral questions, and he does describe battles excitingly. But the bad side overcomes the good points -- the cliché characters, stilted dialogue, and generally unconvincing working out of the plot just lost me.

Copyright © 2002 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area. He writes a monthly short fiction review column for Locus. Stop by his website at

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