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By Force of Arms
William C. Dietz
Ace Books, 330 pages

By Force of Arms
William C. Dietz
William C. Dietz has published more than 16 science fiction novels. Dietz spent time in the Navy, graduated from the University of Washington, and has been variously employed as a surgical technician, newswriter, college instructor, television director, and public relations manager. He lives in the Seattle area with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Imperial Bounty
A Conversation with William C. Dietz

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Marc Goldstein

William C. Dietz's By Force of Arms revisits the universe of his popular Legionnaire series. The Confederacy, a precarious coalition of alien species, has just survived a mutiny and a plot to overthrow the confederate leadership thanks to the efforts of Colonel Bill Booly. But before the Confederacy can pause to rebuild, a new danger emerges. This time, the stakes are even higher, and the future of all life hangs in the balance.

Mysterious aliens called Thrakies have moved into Confederate territory, carrying with them a deadly secret: the Thrakies have been pursued for centuries by a gigantic fleet of robots, the Sheen, which have been programmed to destroy them. Historically, the Thrakies have always run from the Sheen. But as they settle on Confederate worlds, the political climate shifts towards facing the Sheen, and using the Confederacy as a shield.

During their inexorable pursuit the Sheen pick up Jepp Jorley, a marooned prospector with delusions of messianic glory. Jorley believes that the Sheen are an instrument of God given to him to convert the universe to his religious vision. The clever AI that controls the fleet, the Hoon, takes advantage of Jorley's gullibility and uses him to distract the Confederacy from its real intentions.

When the Sheen, egged on by Jorley, attack a distant Confederate fringe colony, it becomes clear that the Sheen will destroy anything that stands between it and the Thraki. Newly-promoted General Bill Booly races to rally the various alien races in the Confederacy to counter the threat. As the Thraki plan unravels, a showdown with the Sheen becomes inevitable and whispers of a Thraki doomsday weapon ripple through the Confederate command.

Dietz specializes in military SF, with an emphasis on action and carnage, and By Force of Arms sticks to this formula. The exposition starts digressively, but the plot accelerates rapidly, with little time to spare for niceties like characterization or atmosphere. There's plenty of conflict and mayhem, and the descriptions of the Legionnaire corps have an authentic military feeling. Dietz throws in a few intriguing plot twists, but I never felt the level of execution fulfilled the potential of the premise, and the finale felt anticlimactic. Nevertheless, fans of Dietz and fans of military SF will probably find By Force of Arms rewarding.

Copyright © 2000 by Marc Goldstein

Marc is the SF Site Games Editor and the principal contributor to the SF Site's Role Playing Department. Marc lives in Santa Ana, California with his wife, Sabrina and cat, Onion.

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