Ruminating on Falkenberg’s Regiment
At 19 years old, I discovered Jerry Pournelle’s work in a massive omnibus entitled The Prince. I will vociferously argue that his CoDominium series with John Christian Falkenberg III, is a better, more enjoyable body of work than Janissaries. Friends disagree with me about this, but I tend to ignore them. Pournelle’s Falkenberg is an incredible character and one I can always more of in my library, hence my surprise when I learned that a new Falkenberg’s legion novel existed. Hallelujah! Then I read it…
Oh my fracking stars this book was crap! No surprise that I didn’t hear a whisper of it before now. It was a cow pie covered with roses and carefully perfumed to be sure, as if placed in the middle of an exquisite bouquet, but that doesn’t make it a rose- no sir. At the end of day, you’re still holding a pile of crap.
The beginning of this novel makes mention of Angela Niles and the firefight which launched Christian Johnny’s career as a Marine Officer in the CoDominium. By the end of the novel, this comes back into play. Then we are introduced to Jeremy Savage, a side character from the Falkenberg’s Legion series who will come to command the Special Air Service and Scouts on Sparta. We also get 2 data dumps. This is less than ideal for a start.
The novel continues in such a vein, with material repeated 2 or 3 times in lackluster fashion, a hodgepodge of planets mentioned and scenarios encountered before we get to the crown jewel of events, as if Carr (writing in Pournelle’s universe) is trying to imitate the original Falkenberg novel, but with less talent and efficacy than Dr. Pournelle put to work. When one imitates a master, one does not go about it half-assed. Falkenberg’s Regiment doesn’t even make it to half-assed. I finished the novel, more from the standpoint of grotesque curiosity than from genuine love of the book.
Savage, our much-maligned protagonist returns home to Churchill, where all his woes began, bravely tells off King and Parliament, liberates the kingdom of his birth from their German oppressors, gets to bed his lady love, convinces her harridan of a father to commit suicide after discovering the man was a traitor to his king, and Christian Johnny is almost non-existent as a character throughout most of it. Savage leaves Churchill, bravely shipping out with the regiment for their next battle. Information provided in previous data dumps is packed into the paragraphs as if the author wanted to pad the novel’s length, rather than from genuine need. Savage’s character is not simply static, it’s white noise. No development, no improvement, no driving dynamics that help shape and evolve what the man is. Minor characters thrown in with little explanation before they wind up pointlessly dead.
I echo Razorfist’s consternation in his recent analysis of Doom: Annihilation. “WHAT THE EFFFF?” Falkenberg’s Regiment was not worth $7.99 on Kindle, and if I thought I could get my money back, I’d argue for it. Thank goodness I didn’t waste even more money getting the hardcover for (checks Amazon) $32.95?
You expected me to pay more than the cost of a tank of gas or a cheap date night dinner with my wife for this fraudulent garbage? I don’t even pay 32.95 for my wife to get a pedicure, with a $5 tip. And I should put my shekels forward for this? Hell no. Whatever Falkenberg’s Regiment may be, it is not a worthy successor to the sweeping saga which is John Christian Falkenberg III and the 42nd Line Marine Regiment (CD). There is a certain spirit of bravado and pride which is enshrined in the novel’s Jerry Pournelle wrote in the mid ’90s. Carr has captured none of that in 381 pages. He would’ve done better to simply repeat the marching song of the Line Marines. That at least, is pleasant and enjoyable to read:
“We’ve left blood in the dirt of twenty-five worlds,
we’ve built roads on a dozen more,
and all that we have at the end our hitch,
buys a night with a second-class whore.
“The Senate decrees, the Grand Admiral calls,
the orders come down from on high,
It’s ‘On Full Kits’ and sound ‘Board Ships,’
We’re sending you where you can die.
“The lands that we take, the Senate gives back,
rather more often than not,
so the more that are killed, the less share the loot,
and we won’t be back to this spot.
“We’ll break the hearts of your women and girls,
we may break your arse as well,
Then the Line Marines with their banners unfurled,
will follow those banners to Hell.
“We know the devil, his pomps and his works,
Ah yes! we know them well!
When we’ve served out our hitch as Line Marines,
we can bugger the Senate of Hell!
“Then we’ll drink with our comrades and lay down our packs,
we’ll rest ten years on the flat of our backs,
then it’s ‘On Full Kits’ and ‘Out of Your Racks,’
you must build a new road through Hell!
“The Fleet is our country, we sleep with a rifle,
no one ever begot a son on his rifle,
they pay us in gin and curse when we sin,
there’s not one that can stand us unless we’re down wind,
we’re shot when we lose and turned out when we win,
but we bury our comrades wherever they fall,
and there’s none that can face us though we’ve nothing at all.”