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Battletech: Warrior: En Garde
Michael A. Stackpole
Roc Books, 288 pages

Battletech: Warrior: En Garde
Michael A. Stackpole
Michael A. Stackpole was born in Wausau, Wisconsin in 1957 and grew up in Vermont. He sold his first gaming project to Flying Buffalo in 1977. After graduating from the University of Vermont in 1979 with a BA in History, he moved and has lived in Arizona ever since. In 1987, FASA hired him to write the Warrior trilogy of BattleTech novels.

Michael A. Stackpole Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alexander von Thorn

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A proud MechWarrior is crippled in battle; friend and foe agree he would have been better left for dead. Two of the Great Houses negotiate a secret alliance to bring order to the Inner Sphere. A disgraced commander is chosen to lead a new force of elite MechWarriors. Gladiators battle for honour, and sometimes for their lives, on the game world Solaris -- but not all battles are fought in the arenas.

Warrior: En Garde is the story of Justin and Daniel Allard, two brothers who are both MechWarriors. Daniel is a captain in the Kell Hounds, an elite mercenary unit working in the Lyran Commonwealth, while Justin is an officer in the forces of the Federated Suns. Justin is crippled in battle, severing his arm and, almost, his career as a MechWarrior. With an experimental prosthesis and advanced physical therapy, he gains the use of a new arm, but he is then framed for treason when he is blamed for the attack which crippled him. After an ambiguous outcome of the trial, he is exiled to the game world of Solaris. He blames Prince Hanse Davion for his exile, and he proceeds to overwhelm the champions of Davion in the arenas of Solaris.

Meanwhile, Davion is in the process of negotiating an alliance with the Lyran Commonwealth, to culminate in the marriage of Davion to Melissa Steiner, heir and Archon-Designate of the Archon Anton Marik. This alliance is being negotiated in secret, as the other Great Houses would find it a dire threat to the balance of power in the Inner Sphere. Meanwhile, Yorinaga Kurita, disgraced in an historic battle against the Kell Hounds, is selected to create a new elite force, the Genyosha (the "Black Ocean") to bring House Kurita to new victories in battle. And webs of intrigue surround the battles on Solaris, as the Great Houses seek to gain advantage through the victories, or sometimes the defeats, of their champions.

The plot and setting are rich and complex. But the characters, charmingly, are not. They wear their hearts on their sleeve. Warriors fight for honour, or sometimes just glory. Villains skulk in the shadows, conspirators glare pointedly across rooms, princes wrestle with the destiny of others using moral codes that are practically medieval. The overall effect is one of grand space opera, an exciting adventure that keeps the reader turning pages. The plot is involved but accessible. The point of view jumps around among several characters, but it usually stays with one for about two chapters at a time.

Inevitably, this being a story set in a gaming universe, orders of battle are laid out with specific detail, and details of combat are described like a play-by-play. But this doesn't detract from the story. Although the story is packed with a surfeit of detail, this is folded in well with action or introspection, the latter with a lot of emotional characterization, so the amount of raw exposition is minimized.

The Warrior trilogy helped to transform BattleTech from a board game to a living universe. The story scales seamlessly from personal combat to interstellar intrigue without losing focus. Warrior: En Garde helped to establish Mike Stackpole as an author worth paying attention to, and this story holds up a decade after first publication. It's the kind of story gamers love: admirable characters, intricate background, dramatic action, and it will also appeal to readers who've never seen the game.

Copyright © 1998 by Alexander von Thorn

Alexander von Thorn works two jobs, at The Worldhouse (Toronto's oldest game store) and in the network control centre of UUNET Canada. In his spare time, he is active in several fan and community organizations, including the Toronto in 2003 Worldcon bid. He is also a game designer, novelist-in-training (with the Ink*Specs, the Downsview speculative fiction writing circle), feeder of one dog and two cats, and avid watcher of bad television. He rarely sleeps.


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