Tin Men

If my last few reviews of new books (The London Project and Lightless) seem a bit cranky, well …

It’s summer time, migraine weather. My serotonin is low (you do know that people with low serotonin are more prone to commit “altruistic punishment“?), and I have fantasies of Agent Oranging my whole lawn.

And Amazon wants their review now.

So here’s my homework, Mr. Bezos.

Review: Tin Men, Christopher Golden, 2015.Tin Men

One of the criticisms of mixing the sexes in combat units is the romantic and sexual distractions degrading combat performance. Given that the first two chapters feature a lot of that involving our hero, Danny Kelso, and Kate Wade, the legless woman he flirts with before missions, you’d almost think Golden was making some ironic comment on the wisdom of that.

Now, I have criticized the warrior babe notion before (Clash of  Eagles and Shock & Awe), but it works here because technology has put downloaded warrior minds in robots that carry lots of ammo, have lots of armor, and their own power plant.

Don’t get excited. That’s as far as Golden’s technological speculation goes. The world seems little altered by all those technologies. Perhaps it’s because the Tin Men aka Remote Infantry Corps are proprietary American technology.

America uses the Tin Men — nicely invulnerable and operated by people safely based in places like Wiesbaden, Germany — to police the world. How America manages to pay for this is never explained though, at the G-20 summit in Athens, Greece, the American president is about to put the screws to the world — perhaps to make it a better paying proposition, but we never get the details. (Do I even need to say Greece? Like Athens, Georgia would ever host a G-20.) Still, I’m sure Niall “Pick Up the White Man’s Burden” Ferguson would approve of Tin Men.

Well, as Napoleon found out when he tried to bring better government to Spain, people don’t like foreigners telling them what to do even when it’s for their own good. (And, no, post WWII West Germany and Japan don’t count. That’s a special case. Who would you rather be occupied by? The USA or USSR?)

An international alliance of Bot Killers, so-called anarchists, have banded their abilities, partly aided by villain Khan, and developed weapons to take out the Tin Men. More importantly, they’ve decided to burn down modern civilization by setting off a series of electro-magnetic pulse weapons throughout the world. Thus Golden scraps a lot of his tech. And a nasty secret is revealed about Tin Men.

It’s not a copy of a mind that’s downloaded into a Tin Man. It’s the mind. The body back in Wiesbaden is just a mindless zombie while the Tin Man runs. And, once you knock out a lot of electronic infrastructure with EMPs, the only way the Tin Men’s minds are going back in the their bodies is if they make it from Damascus, Syria to Wiesbaden. (Golden brings up the question of how long those bodies can be mentally vacated before irreversible damage sets in, but he gives no answer.)

And, of course, now when you kill a Tin Man, you’re killing the operator. Khan and his allies are out for blood.

The story alternates between three groups: the Tin Men in Syria, the besieged G-20 conference in Athens, and Wiesbaden. The main story of the Tin Men fleeing towards home reminded me of Xenophon’s Anabasis which tells of Greek mercenaries fleeing Persia for the safety of the Black Sea.

There are traitors and lovers and civilians who die nobly and civilians who learn to kill and cowards and brutes who shape up when it counts. It’s entertaining. Golden surprises with whom he chooses to let live — not many. It must also be said that he makes an effort to show the world through all his characters’ eyes and not making them rhetorical puppets.

Just don’t think you’re going to read deep thoughts on wartech’s future or political philosophy.


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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