William C. Dietz,
For More Than Glory
(Ace, 2003)

For More Than Glory is the fifth of William C. Dietz's Legion of the Damned novels, and it marks a change of direction and in some sense a rebirth of this thrilling military science fiction series. Much has changed since we were first introduced to a futuristic legion of soldiers evolved from the historical French Foreign Legion. The decadent Terran empire has been overthrown, Earth has taken a leading role in the interplanetary Confederation of Sentient Beings, two massive wars against the militaristic Hudathan race have been won, a far-reaching conspiracy temporarily succeeded in overthrowing the Earth government, and the Confederacy has managed to survive a dire threat from a powerful new alien race called the Sheen.

While the cyborg legionnaires who served as the focus of the first novel continue to be important elements in the story, war and diplomacy have long ago taken center stage in Dietz's unfolding of Confederation future history. A fascinating side note to this novel, which the author alludes to in a note at the back of the book, is that Dietz molded, to some degree, the chaotic set of events on the planet LaNor on the Chinese Boxer Rebellion of 1900.

While several of the main characters from previous books retain an important place in this story, For More Than Glory is largely built around a refreshingly new cast of characters. Legion 2nd Lt. Antonio Santana emerges as the new hero on the block. His checkered past of disobeying certain direct orders of a certain superior officer in the previous war cost him a star and secured his posting on the interplanetary backwater of LaNor. This little planet soon takes on great significance, however, as a complicated planetary revolution threatens not only the lives of diplomats and legionnaires on the surface but also, albeit indirectly, the very solvency and future of the Confederacy itself.

An assortment of races has been incorporated into the Legion by this point, including the bug-like, always suspect Ramanthians and the once-hated Hudathans. No one trusts anyone else, and for good reason. On LaNor itself, the vain empress seeks to hold onto power in the face of two powerful threats, one by a revolutionary terrorist group and the other from a royal nephew who wants to guide LaNor into Confederation membership. The diplomatic teams serving on the planet find themselves increasingly in the crossfire of conspiracies and dangers that reach far beyond LaNor's small region of space. Unbeknownst to their "allies," the Ramanthians are preparing for a hatching of some five billion new citizens -- to allow for this upcoming population explosion, they need dominion over additional planets and a means of transporting their hatchlings to them, and they will stop at nothing to get what they want.

This story proceeds very well indeed in describing the rapidly deteriorating conditions on LaNor. Santana is a wonderful character, a true and honest soldier trying to take care of his men and protect as many innocent lives as possible. Highly ambitious diplomat Christine Vanderveen complements Santana very well, as she is quite willing to exceed her diplomatic powers in order to get to the bottom of things and knows what to do with a gun in the heat of battle. Legion captain Seeba-Ka completely steals the show in my opinion, though. Until now, the Hudathans have appeared as bloodthirsty, hateful creatures, but Seeba-Ka boasts a well-developed, remarkably subtle sense of humor and an unprecedented commitment to the legion.

A number of thrilling rescue missions take place, but the best action occurs when the Confederate forces and diplomats are faced with an extended siege of their section of town. The descriptions of military conflict are awe-inspiring, while the rollercoaster of political intrigue takes the reader for a wild ride indeed. Surprisingly, it is the small section of the book featuring characters well-known to readers of this series that flounders. Legion General Booly is working on eliminating the small number of mutineers still roaming the Outer Rim, but the manner in which he goes about this really doesn't ring true. This subplot stood as a significant speed bump on the road to satisfaction.

The conclusion of this novel is somewhat open-ended, setting the stage for at least one more novel in the series. I don't have a problem with this, but those readers seeking to have all their answers provided in the pages of one book alone should be aware of this fact. I rarely bring up matters of an editing nature, but I also have to mention the fact that the hardcover edition is simply riddled with typos, missing letters, extra words and other glaring mistakes. I do not blame the author; but it is an unfortunate truth that the extent of the problem in this regard does take a little something away from the reader's enjoyment of the novel; this is a real shame because For More Than Glory is by and large a very engaging, exciting work of military science fiction.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 22 May 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.