The Raw Feed series on Jerry Pournelle’s CoDominium continues.
I’m off working on new stuff.
Raw Feed (1990): Prince of Mercenaries, Jerry Pournelle, 1989.
This is a reworking of two John Chrisitan Falkenberg stories — published, as most were, in the mid and early seventies — not included in West of Honor
or The Mercenary
. They fill in the gaps in Falkenberg’s history from his incurring the wrath of Grand Senator Bronson in West of Honor
to his early and later years as a mercenary in The Mercenary
. This fixup details Falkenberg’s actions on the prison planet Tanith and takes place between the last two stories of The Mercenary
. I don’t know how much was changed for this “substantially different” version, but it’s interesting to note what’s in here.
This book makes much more substantial use of computers in its plot than any of the other Falkenberg books. This probably reflects Pournelle’s knowledge of the subject and its military application.
This novel probably comes the closest to actually explaining (but still not really doing so) CoDominium Grand Admiral Sergei Lermontov’s plan that is mercenary Falkenberg’s real cause. It seems to be a plan for, first, keeping the human presence in space as vigorous as possible, and, second, to form the nucleus of a second political organization, with Sparta as the core, that can fill the vacuum of the crumbling CoDominium. (Falkenberg’s actions on New Washington in The Mercenary seem designed to keep anyone else from forming an Empire in the CoDominium’s absence.)
It’s interesting to note that the idea of preserving civilization in the wake of a crumbling empire and setting up the basis for a new one sounds very much like Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, a work that influenced Pournelle tremendously, including his choice of academic studies. This book has, I suspect, the most clear statement of what Pournelle views as good government — all the while acknowledging none is perfect — in the complex constitution of Sparta which involves a heriditary monarchy. Specifically, there are two with mutual veto power over each other like Roman consuls. The influence of Roman history and culture permeates this book throughout from references to Cannae to citing the drawing up of the Twelve Tablets of Roman law as the greatest moment in the history of freedom to the layout of the Legion’s camp which is like a Roman army camp to Falkenberg’s boyhood in Rome.
As a story, this tale was exciting enough. The book went into the nuts and bolts of how a mercenary outfit would operate, and Tanith was a plausible explanation of how and why a slavery system could develop. I liked, though it was predictable, Major Barton rejoining Falkenberg’s legion. I liked Prince Lysander of Sparta not getting the girl (one of those duty over desire things). The action was exciting and instructive on how military opeartions are thought through and conducted. The only annoying thing about this book was its two instances of flashback/fill ins when we found out how Mark Fuller came to Tanith and how Lieutenant Owensford first met Major Barton.