William C. Dietz,
For Those Who Fell
(Ace, 2004)

Having injected fresh new life into his Legion of the Damned series with For More Than Glory, William C. Dietz provides readers with another exciting military science-fiction adventure with For Those Who Fell, the sixth novel in the series. Much has changed since we first encountered the Legion of the Damned several years (and two futuristic wars) ago. While the human cyborg legionnaires remain the foundation of the epic story, intergalactic intrigue, deception, diplomacy and good old-fashioned warfare have long ago become the trademarks of the series. A narrower design in this and the previous novel has also allowed for tighter focus and better characterization of both new and familiar individuals.

While the Confederation of Sentient Beings has defeated the mighty Hudathans twice in battle and managed to subdue a powerful, mysterious new alien race called the Sheen, it still finds its very survival very much in danger -- as was made clear when its spacebound headquarters was totally destroyed via an act of betrayal from within. While no one ever trusted the bug-like Ramanthians completely, few suspected that they would quickly change from ally to insidiously dangerous foe -- that's mainly because the Ramanthians chose not to share the news that they were secretly preparing for the hatching of five billion new citizens. Unable to support this impending population explosion on their home planet, the Ramanthians need access to a lot of ships and the ability to seize control of additional planets to serve as homes for large numbers of the new hatchlings -- all things that their treachery allows them to lay claim to.

Ramanthians seem to hold the upper hand, as evidenced by the location of the new Confederation seat of government on the ice world of Naa, home of the legionnaires -- no other planet wanted to offer the unified government even a temporary home, for fear that the Ramanthians would once again target it for destruction. This kind of concern for the future grows all the more grave when Confederation spies discover that the Ramanthians have managed to build a hypercom; once implemented, this faster-than-ship communications technology would almost surely seal the Confederation's doom. A special ops force is quickly dispatched to the planet Savas to seize the hypercom before the Ramanthians can implement it among all of their forces. Leading the way is the series' newest hero, Lieutenant Antonio Santana, whose dangerous job is made all the more difficult when the overmatched allied force crash lands on the planet in two separate locations separated by a vast desert. Not only must the Confederate forces be brought together before the intended mission can take place, Santana must also deal with a murderous Hudathan traitor running amuck in the wilderness and fight a proxy war against his enemies using the planet's two indigenous populations. And time is short because there's a Ramanthian fleet on the way, as well.

Dietz is truly a master at this kind of futuristic hard science fiction, nimbly handling large numbers of familiar characters across multiple worlds. A variety of subplots really infuse this ongoing saga with a richness most military science fiction can only dream of. Just because Santana has his hands full on Savas while the Naa renew their controversial call for equal representation in the Confederation and diplomat Christine Vanderveen risks her career to expose the secret collaboration of the Thrakies with the enemy Ramanthians doesn't mean the Confederacy doesn't have a surprise or two up its sleeve for the queen laying all those billions of eggs back in the Ramanthian Hive. To fully appreciate this story, though, you really need to have enough of a background of the series to put everything in context. You should definitely read the previous novel, For More Than Glory, before picking this new installment up, but I would strongly recommend reading the entire series in order, for Dietz takes his readers on a wild and addictive ride that just keeps getting better and better.

by Daniel Jolley
27 January 2007

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