Author Topic: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels (updated 22 August 2016)  (Read 8389 times)

Frabby

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As many of you will be aware, there's an ongoing German-only series of original BattleTech print novels.
Based on my earlier posting in another thread, here's my overview and review of these novels. I think CGL should seek to get them translated and offer them via BattleCorps at least.

I think there is a notable difference in style between American and German pulp fiction. While especially Stackpole novels suffer from what I call the "Batman syndrome" (lone superhero who can do no wrong makes everybody else look dumb, and reality always bends around him so that he can conveniently solve all problems solo), novels by German authors tend to have flawed heroes who may fail on their own; typically, a team of protagonists working together is required to succeed, or a multitude of fleshed-out characters is used to show a given situation/conflict from several sides without painting it all black and white. German novelists also seem to be more comfortable with poor luck, mishaps and failure even for main characters, casual sex, and killing off characters (perhaps because they have more characters to begin with).

A word on Canon: Randall Bills, when he was Line Developer before Herb took over in August 2007, had declared the German novels canon in his "Ask the Precentor Martial FAQ" PDF that used to be downloadable from the official forum. Herb later rescinded that ruling during his tenure as Line Developer, by defining Canon as the sum of all publications against which new material is fact-checked; he expressly excluded the German novels from that list.
Randall is now wearing the LD hat again, but until a new ruling comes on the issue Herb's definition of Canon stands.

The German-exclusive novels can roughly be divided into four groups:
- The Great Game Cycle of loosely connected Star League novels by various authors;
- the Bear Cycle by Arous Brocken;
- the Andurien Wars novels by Bernard Craw;
- and the rest, a couple of other novels by various authors and set in various eras.
For convenience, I'll group them in this fashion in this review instead of publication order.
(For a list of novels in publication order, especially the German-only novels, see this Sarna article. Convenietly, each and every German novel has its own article complete with plot summary written by my humble self.)

Star League novels
I call these the "Silmarillion of BattleTech": They're set around the year 2600, in the distant past of the standard setting, and depict characters and events that are just history to the characters we've known so far - and the facts and continuity are a bit wonky at times. The authors had to work off the sometimes faulty or contradictory history sections of the old house books before CGL later revisited the Star League era and cleaned house. Nothing that couldn't be fixed though.

Wahnsinn und Methode / Madness and Method (FanPro, 2004; author Michael Diel) - A Royal Black Watch company is sent to Icar (in the former RWR) for training maneuvers and gets caught up in the planetary governor's dodgy dealings. Framed for attacks on civilians and subsequently hunted by the local military, they go to ground until they find proof of governor's dealings with House Kurita. Big final battle where that proof turns the militia. Lots of 'Mech action with a thin, somewhat contrived storyline and the obligatory tragic death of a main character.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Über dem Gesetz / Above the Law (FanPro, 2005; author Michael Diel) - A James Bond novel right down to martinis and frolicking in the pool with the pretty Kurita spygirl in the end. Protagonist David Gibbs has to solve a murder that never actually took place, and is set up to (unknowingly) track down and kill the murderers of Shandra Noruff-Cameron (whose assassination was covered up). Agent Gibbs essentially fails to solve this case though he does end up killing all four supposed perpetrators. During a later follow-up mission Gibbs pieces together what really happened, what information was withheld from him and what his mission was really about. Very little 'Mech action, but lots of Star League era politics and intrigue including the murder of Barton Avellar (by mad Leonard Kurita after a political falling-out) and Leonard Kurita (by recurring character Tetsuo Yatomo, on orders of House Kurita who feel Leonard is unfit to rule), and even an extended cameo of Cassie DeBurke as a minor character. I liked it.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Note: When CGL later published Historical: Reunification War, Shandra Noruff-Cameron's profile includes the notion that "foul play" may have been involved in her death. I think this is a nod to this novel.

Früchte voll Bitterkeit / Fruits (full) of Bitterness (FanPro, 2006; authors Erik Schreiber & Hermann Ritter) - In the FWL a megalomaniac sect leader invokes an unrealistic and overcomplicated mega shell game to abduct a Marik scion to set himself up as the hero of the day and thus somehow further his goals (or maybe just be a moustache-twirling villain). A group of juvenile BattleMech fans help some washed up militia officers to fight him and his cronies with a BattleMech hand-built from spare parts in a garage. Ugh. That's what it says on the back cover, and it's a perfectly accurate summary. And despite the setup sounding like an unfunny Galaxy Quest-style fan wank, the situations and characters work much better than I anticipated. I almost (well, almost) liked the book. The story may sound stupid but was executed fairly well. My hat is off to the authors who made something solid out of a terrible premise. Only, the sole 'Mech featured wasn't invented until after the story according to the MUL, and appears in a configuration that canonically doesn't exist. If you simply assume the 'Mech model was in error and the story wasn't really about a Clint then it's okay.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

In Ungnade / (Fallen) In Disgrace (FanPro, 2007; author Chris Hartford) - Another english-language manuscript (besides the first two Clangründer novels by Randall Bills) that was translated and published in German. The manuscript was later revised and corrected with up-to-date facts on the Star League era, and published via BattleCorps as Fall from Grace in late 2008. This trumps the earlier German edition; the novel is just mentioned here for completeness' sake. It chronicles Rhean Marik's tragic struggle as unwilling head of the Free Worlds League until she is ousted from office. Did you know there's a line of Marik-Davions out there?
My rating (for what it's worth): 4 out of 5 stars.

En Passant (FanPro, 2007; author Michael Diel) - Subtitled "Shadow War I" and announced as the first part of a trilogy though no sequel was published so far.
Plot similarities with Diel's earlier novel Über dem Gesetz: Alexander Davion was murdered on - guess whose? Right: mad Leonard Kurita's orders. MIIO department director Susan McEvedy, who was responsible for his safety, takes it very personal. She keeps the murder secret (a natural death is generally assumed) and begins a private agent war, against the ISF against the will and without the knowledge of her superiors. It spins way out of control, to the point of McEvedy having MIIO operatives killed to cover up her lies to her superiors, and the book ends with the tension between FedSuns and Draconis Combine erupting into a naval space battle in a neutral system, drawing in Star League forces. Ends with the line "To be continued".
My rating: Pensive; in an earlier review I gave it 2.5 out of 5 stars but I had a change of mind and would now rate it 4 out of 5 on the presumption that the story continues, subsequent books keep up the pace and don't drop the ball on the narrative.
Note: According to Ulisses Spiele they are in contact with the author and hope to work with him on future novels; we may see a continuation of this book yet.

Royal Flush (FanPro, 2008; author Carolina Möbis) - The planet McGehee and even the entire Draconis March is seceding from the Federated Suns. House Kurita jumps at the chance to invade the nascent state while they're not yet a Star League member and thus defenseless, while House Davion refuses to accept the secession. A Davion garrison that, unawares of the ongoing secession, arrived on McGehee to a rather cold welcome begins a guerilla war against the Kurita occupation following the attack on the planet.
Most of the story isn't too bad, but help me remember... when, how and why did the Draconis March secede from the FedSuns? Is this another book that was supposed to get a sequel to conclude the story which never materialized?
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Clangründer: Traum / Clan Founder: Dream (FanPro, 2006; author Randall Bills) - The sequel to Fouding of the Clans: Fall from Glory; english version announced as Founding of the Clans: Visions of Rebirth, but unpublished so far.
Many people were apparently irked by Andery Kerensky, feeling he was a whining sissy in the first novel. Well it gets worse here. Through the eyes of Andery this novel covers events from 2802-2815, Nicholas Kerensky's Second Exodus and the formation of the Clans. Andery doesn't actually do anything besides feebly trying to resist being pulled along in his brother's machinations. We see how Andery unwittingly establishes "Aff" in Clan terminology, get more proof that Nicholas Kerensky was a murderous sociopathic nutcase, and those who really needed it get confirmation that "Jennifer Winson" was also "Jes Cole" and she is just as creepy as Nicholas.
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
Note: This book's canonicity status is a bit unclear. Published in its German translation only so far, it would normally be apocryphal like the others but Herb's ruling was ambigously worded: "Computer games and the material printed only in Germany (with the exception of the Founding of the Clans novels by Randall Bills) are not considered canonical." That may be read to mean Clangründer: Traum is actually fully canonical. I think the CGL authors and core factcheckers also got to read the original (english-language) manuscript, effectively treating it as fully canon.
Note 2: I've heard a rumor to the effect that the novel was not only translated, but also partly rewritten prior to publication in Germany. I won't comment on rumors and only mention this because it may mean the German print novel includes changes from the original manuscript.



Bear Cycle
This series by Arous Brocken chronicles the adventures of George, trueborn to a Leonard-West sibko in Clan Nova Cat, who ends up as a mercenary leader in the Inner Sphere. While these books generally got favorable reviews in Germany, personally I'm a bit torn. The stories as such are (mostly) good, and there are many fresh ideas here. But the writing isn't always top notch and often goes into unneccessary detail about unimportant things, with many points that would get flagged by factcheckers. Also, the author is extensively using scenes from BT computer games and names of real people associated with BT, which doesn't always sit right with me.

Katze unter Bären / Cat among Bears (FanPro, 2006) - Bear Cycle I. Nova Cat warrior George, notable for his skills as a scout and pilot of light 'Mechs, narrowly passes his Trial of Position under very unusual circumstances (the trial grounds are overrun by bandits during the trial). Shortly afterwards he is taken as isorla by the Ghost Bears and becomes something of a ristar.
It's interesting to compare George and his story to the Legend of the Jade Phoenix trilogy and Aidan Pryde. Although largely a likeable protagonist, George's alien mindset and his disregard for human life is shown fairly well. In one scene, for example, while in a WorkMech he improvises an anti-Elemental flamer from a blowtorch and detonates a gas line to kill attacking Elementals... inside a hangar full of techs. In the debriefing it is mentioned that his action killed more techs than enemy fire did but nobody really takes offense.
What I found equally funny and distracting is that the author actually used the intro cinematics for the MechWarrior 2 computer game as well as MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bear's Legacy as scenes within the book. Also, some character names are references to BattleTech authors (such as introducing a tech named Ardath and then a couple of pages later one Mayhar Gurdel).
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Clanwächter / Clan Watchers (FanPro, 2007) - Bear Cycle II. George is posted to the Inner Sphere and attains a command position, where he is somewhat swamped by administrative tasks that he isn't very apt or well-trained for. As it turns out the Clan Watch is actively stirring up trouble with IS forces to keep the conflict going even after Tukayyid. Investigating into their agenda, George gets into trouble (and even a fight) with the Watch.
This novel has a very intriguing premise, as the Clan Watch got about zero screen time so far. In this respect, it is rather well-done. But there are a few things that make me give it a low rating: A factchecking snafu, as one part of the storyline hinges on the (false) presumption that you can scan and track where an outgoing JumpShip is jumping to, and thus follow them; and the author got recharge times badly wrong, having ships jump far too often. Even when taking quickcharging LF batteries into consideration the ships cannot possibly make jumps in such a quick succession. Worst of all, after building up to George discovering some mysterious Watch operation the story remains unresolved and unexplained: Instead of finding out what exactly the Watch is doing, George is overcome by enemy forces and captured at the end of the book, terminating his investigation. I didn't understand if that was pure tough luck, or if he was somehow set up by his antagonists in the Watch. Or what the Watch operations on Setubal and Mannedorf were all about.
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Mission Kiamba (FanPro, 2007) - Bear Cycle III. After they captured George, the Doom Angels subunit of the Devil's Dents mercenary regiment ends up stranded on the Clan Smoke Jaguar-held world of Kiamba, with two wrecked DropShips and no JumpShip. The desperate mercenaries cook up a devious plot to dupe the local population into believing they were sent by the Draconis Combine to support an uprising against the Jaguars. This diversion is supposed to allow the mercs to fix one of their DropShips and escape on a rescue JumpShip sent by their parent unit. They know and accept that the insurgents will get slaughtered, and even actively see to it that they aren't too successful. George, desperate to remain in the Warrior caste, actively helps his captors and eventually becomes a member of the unit.
Interesting story. I didn't really root for the merc protagonists though, who deliberately sacrifice hapless locals and essentially commit a number of crimes including outright murder.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Erster Kontrakt / First Conract (Ulisses, 2013) - Bear Cycle IV. These are essentially two shorter stories back-to-back.
The decimated Doom Angels return to Outreach with "George Bear" now a respected member. As it turns out, the other subunits of the Devil's Dents were mauled even worse in their recent assignments and the unit falls on hard times. Unable to accept further anti-Clan contracts for House Kurita, they are regarded as worthless and even a security risk as they previously undertook black ops for Kurita. Consequently, Kurita orders the unit destroyed and they are wiped out in a series of assassinations. George, despite massive problems adapting to life on Outreach, survives and escapes, procuring (under dubious legal circumstances) the Commando he had been assigned.
With the help of a few acquaintances George then sets up shop as an independent mercenary and finally gets a contract as a member of a disparate merc company on pirate hunting duty. Despite his skills the poorly led mission ends in desaster, but George narrowly manages to avoid dispossession.
The mercenary business is truly shown to be a dog eat dog world here. The mercs are invariably downtrodden, dishonorable, greedy and a bit dumb even when they are competent fighters otherwise. We're clearly shown the dregs of Temptown here, and most of them have no qualms about selling out their friends and relatives. I thougt that was a refreshing view on the trade (after an overdose of Wolf's Dragoons and Kell Hounds).
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Waffengefährten / Brothers-in-Arms (Ulisses, 2014) - Bear Cycle V. An series of episodes rather than a single story, this book narrates how George grows his own mercenary unit, the Biting Bear's Bashes, over the course of several missions in the Chaos March. It reads a bit like a transcript from a RPG campaign, to be honest; the episodic approach didn't work very well for me.
The last episode depicts a corporate warfare scenario on Saiph getting out of hand. I thought this part of the story was really well done, and since it takes up about half of the total pagecount it goes a long way to redeem the book.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Riskante Ziele / Risky (Dangerous) Objectives (Ulisses, 2015) - Bear Cycle VI. Concluding the Bear Cycle, we follow George Bear and his Biting Bear's Bashes through a MRBC trial for their conduct on Saiph, more mercenary missions, ups and downs. Their last mission is an infiltration mission against WoB on Mars. The mission somehow magically works out and they steal a complete set of Celestials with surprisingly little effort. However, their Kurita employers decide to have the unit vanquished anyways to cover their tracks. Another merc unit is tasked with wiping them out, WoB forces join the fray, and the Biting Bear's Bashes are whittled down in a drawn-out guerilla campaign. George dies in the last stand.
I am really sorry to have to say this as I really wanted to like the book, but it is probably the weakest book in the entire Bear Cycle. Every aspect I disliked earlier in the series is back in full force. There is no true story arc, and the writing style doesn't work for me. (See below for a more detailed review.)
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.


Andurien Wars novels
I love this series by Bernard Craw. It goes to show that you can tell a good BattleTech story entirely without introducing fancy new technology or universe-shaking events. These books are built from well-known, established BattleTech history (the author said Brush Wars, which is among my favorite BT sourcebooks, laid the groundwork for his books). Even when you think you know the outcome, reading how things came to pass is the really interesting part. Just my 3025-era cup of tea really.

Karma (FanPro, 2007) - Andurien battalion attacks secret Capellan research installation at the outbreak of the 4th Succession War, hoping to hurt both the CC and House Marik. Opposing is a WH Kamata detachment. Lots of great characters, good situations, fresh ideas and good descriptions including good battle scenes; even narrative depth and a good story. A classic BT planetary assault done right. I was blown away by this novel, which is one of the best BT books out there. Everything I like about BattleTech, plus well-done scifi in showcasing an underground civilisation living in terraformed caves. The author really did his research homework, basing the Niomede caves on the Biosphere 2 project in Arizona that he had visited.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Präludium / Prelude (Ulisses, 2012) - Andurien Wars 1. As the title implies, this book sets the groundwork for the series and provides character exposition. In this sense it is an anthology more than a novel. On the down side that means it lacks a true story arc, and rather presents a number of loosely connected episodes dealing with the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of the Andurien Secession. The individual episodes range from insignificant to very good, and mostly deal with characters that previously appeared in Karma. Dame Catherine Humphreys and her family get some screen time as protagonists. Notable cameo of TRO3025 notable Hermes II pilot Zahn "The Dreamer" Vinge. Karma protagonist Jen Xiao enters Capellan Death Commando training, interestingly making the character less likeable. The story of the Ash Witch and her Worm Cult is continued from Karma.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Zorn / Wrath (Ulisses, 2012) - Andurien Wars 2. The Andurien assault on Grand Base, as seen through the eyes of numerous characters on all sides of the conflict. If you expected big 'Mech battles you're in for a disappointment though, as the warfare on Grand Base is mostly asymmetrical and small-scale save for the assault on the factories near the end. It is a very good read nevertheless.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Gier / Avarice (Ulisses, 2014) - Andurien Wars 3. Emma Centrella and Richard Humphreys were to marry, to strengthen the Andurien/Canopus alliance when they attacked the CapCon together. BattleTech history simply tells us that the wedding fell through due to mutual dislike. The "actual" story runs much deeper than that dry bit of information though. Gier is a sad story of two likeable, powerful characters destined to fail each in their own way on the backdrop of a war raging. It gets yet more melancholic when you look at the respective fates of Emma and Richard in BT lore. Despite being heavy on character development the book also delivers heavily on battle scenes including cool underwater battles. The final wrap-up scene in the hospital marks this character-driven novel perhaps the closest thing to real literature in BattleTech storytelling - not many BT stories make you feel for the characters quite like this.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars. I admit I may be biased, as I was a factchecker on this novel.



Other German-exclusive novels

Phoenix (Heyne, 2001; author Peter Heid) - Two stories, one told in flashback during the other. Good characters but rather weak, straightforward stories with the run-of-the-mill "merc unit betrayed by employer" plot for the main story. Set in 3033 (merc unit in FWL employ defending against Lyran assault) and 3054 (merc units on Tomans under attack by Jade Falcons).
I liked how the aspect of death and losses comes to the fore, to the point of the merc unit renaming itself to "Phoenix" and only one single member surviving (well, and another had retired after losing both legs) while the main protagonist is offed in the epilogue, dying while waiting for his MedEvac helicopter that took 3 hours to show up.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Die Albatros-Akte / The Albatross File (FanPro, 2005; author Reinhold H. Mai) - In 2838 four LIC agents (Team Albatros) are put on the case of a rogue Lyran Archonet who has the Z-4, a killswitch device that remotely destroys a BattleMech's gyroscope and renders the 'Mech inoperable. It doesn't affect tanks or infantry but is still somehow a total game changer on the battlefield. This one I didn't like for several reasons: The characters are way over the top (why exactly did we need a hot lesbian in the team?) and their whole operation is very contrived and depends on lucky chance more than any deliberate planning. Stuff just kinda happens to push the story along. The Z-4 is a crude plot device and breaking the BattleTech aesthetics to the point where a preface in the book states the story is fictious within the fictious universe. I feel cheated by that: When you're not writing BattleTech then you shouldn't try to cash in on the BT brand by declaring it a work of fiction within the BT universe, only to have BattleTech written on the cover.
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Duo Infernale (FanPro, 2007; author Carolina Möbis) - In 3061 a newly-minted merc unit is wiped out while guarding a mining operation. Two survivors - childish Mad Cat pilot "Mad Dog" Maloy and serious Elemental Shin - discover that they really guarded a Star League era nuke storehouse, and now several warheads have been stolen by Free Skye Separatists. The two women escape and track down the perpetrators, enlisting the help of a down-on-his-luck ComStar tech and a mysterious rogue. This book is notable for not one but two great showdowns plus a (minor) plot twist ending.
The pacing is fast, the action is cool, the story isn't half bad. This could be a really good book save for the silly main character and some weaker parts in the story that all happen early on. If you pull through, the story picks up speed.
My rating: At least 3.5 out of 5 stars

Wiege der Basilisken / Cradle of the Basilisks (Ulisses, 2011; author Reinhold H. Mai) - Sort of a sequel to Die Albatross-Akte, and again a fictional story within the BattleTech universe. Team Albatross is activated once more, this time to investigate FedSuns research into super soldiers. These so-called Basilisks are humans genetically adapted to accept a symbiont lifeform in their blood that can repair essentially any physical damage within minutes (even brain damage). Naturally, Basilisks can see in the infrared spectrum and have superhuman strength, too.
As a BattleTech novel, this book falls flat on its face. The Basilisks don't fit the BattleTech aesthetics at all, and what's worse is that the "protagonists" in this book - Team Albatross - could be left out entirely. They deploy far from the base, march through the jungle and arrive too late to prevent the destruction of the base in a Kurita attack. That's it, that's really the entire story. There's a side-story about a Basilisk couple that escape from the base as they don't want to be misused as lab rats anymore. When you look closely, theirs is the real story of this book.
My rating: 1 out of 5 stars. If it didn't try to sell itself as a BattleTech novel, might be 3 out of 5.

Sturm auf Arc-Royal / Assault on Arc-Royal (Ulisses, 2014; author Stefan Burban) - During the FedCom Civil War an irregular Lyran foce under a social general attempts a decapitation strike against Arc-Royal. The small defending contingents of Kell Hounds and Wolves-in-Exile don't get along well, hampering defense efforts.
The story might have worked as well (or better) when told on a smaller scale, why did it have to be Arc-Royal during the FCCW? The premise doesn't sit well with me, it feels shoehorned into canon. That issue I have with the rather thin plot aside, the battle scenes are okay. Some story elements feel contrived. So some good parts, some bad, and a lot of middle ground.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Gejagt (Silent Reaper Zyklus) / Hunted (Ulisses, 2015; author Daniel Isberner) - A black-ops merc unit specializing in infiltration and "shadowruns" is duped and blackmailed by Word of Blake to work for them, but the scouring of Outreach and "nuking" of Tharkad makes the unit reconsider and turn against WoB. Like the Jihad in general, this is a very "Shadowrunny" novel with lots of intrigue and betrayal and a few minor loopholes in the plot, or perhaps I missed something. (See below for a more detailed review.)
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Die Kanonen von Thunder Rock / The Guns of Thunder Rock (Ulisses, 2015; author Bernd Perplies) - The 3028 conquest of Pleione during the 4th Succession War, a 400-page retelling of a one-paragraph summary in the 4th Succession War Atlas.
Minor factchecking points aside, the book has some issues that preclude giving it a higher rating: I feel it is way too long; the real combat action only begins some 160 pages into the book and there are excessive amounts of explanation, background information and cameos by major characters (the whole New Avalon scene - having a BBQ with Hanse Davion, Ardan Sortek and Quintus Allard that does little if anything for the story), needlessly bloating the text. The protagonists are interchangeable in the sense that there is no mercenary feel to the mercenaries and no specific CapCon feel to the defenders. Finally, the story "arc" is quite linear - a siege wearing the defenders down and then a final assault. The conflict is told through the eyes of a small group of protagonists on either side of the conflict, with no real hero or villain characters, so as a reader I didn't particularly root for either side to win or fail.
On the bright side, the overall adaption of the Pleione conflict from the 4th SW Atlas is very good, the combat scenes are well-written, the siege is gritty and the many episodes or sub-plots are quite enjoyable - I especially liked the Long Tom ammunition situation and its twists and turns. The novel may not be top-notch brilliant, but still a very solid BT story and a promising entree for a new BT author.
My rating: At least 3.5 out of 5 stars.

(Reviews continue in posting below, as this post has hit its maximum allowed size.)
« Last Edit: 22 August 2016, 09:21:09 by Frabby »
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DoctorMonkey

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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #1 on: 07 December 2014, 06:48:03 »
Interesting, thank you for this. Actually I now feel less bad about not getting to read these  :-\
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ChanMan: "Capellan Ingenuity: The ability to lose battles to Davion forces in new and implausible ways"

Frabby

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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #2 on: 07 December 2014, 07:02:03 »
Don't get me wrong on the ratings - 3 is "average", not "bad". It's only at 2 stars or below where the reading gets painful. The German novels are up to par compared to the English novels. In fact, there aren't many classic BT novels that I would rate higher than 3 either.
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DoctorMonkey

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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #3 on: 07 December 2014, 07:04:26 »
But reading the summaries, none of them made me go "oh, I'd love that..." And the plots of quite a few made me think "meh"
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Frabby

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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #4 on: 07 December 2014, 07:20:21 »
I'll admit that some (most) of the plots are a bit uninspired. But have you checked the plot of any other BattleTech novel lately?  ;D

Seriously, there's only so many different plots that can be told. To me, it's the narration itself that makes a plot shine or fail. Good characters and attention to detail can even salvage poor plots in my opinion.
« Last Edit: 07 December 2014, 07:22:55 by Frabby »
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DoctorMonkey

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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #5 on: 07 December 2014, 07:23:12 »
No, I haven't reread any for a while
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #6 on: 07 December 2014, 19:00:18 »
I should have studied German, it would be cool to talk shop with fellow BT fans across the Atlantic (I mean outside of this forum ;D
« Last Edit: 07 December 2014, 22:54:01 by SteelRaven »
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #7 on: 07 December 2014, 20:12:59 »
Most speak your tongue.


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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #8 on: 07 December 2014, 23:00:17 »
I'm aware but I would if I could return the favor (just need to find time to study up)
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #9 on: 08 December 2014, 14:14:29 »
No, I haven't reread any for a while

Chances are, you'll be similarily disappointed - nostalgia may be powerful, but doesn't make for a good novel.  ;)


Of all the books listed by Frabby, I've only read three (Phoenix, Die Albatros-Akte and In Ungnade). Phoenix has that Camachos Caballeros vibe going that I like in general. In Ungnade was also a nice read. But between Die Albatros-Akte and the Fanpro/Ulisses cover blurbs, I've never touched the rest of the line. Maybe that's going to change in the future (I'd love to see somethin similar to the Battlecorps Anthologies) but I won't hold my breath.
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #10 on: 08 December 2014, 19:46:48 »
Frabby,

Thanks for these great pocket reviews - much appreciated!

Maybe one day ...

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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #11 on: 09 December 2014, 14:49:55 »
Good reviews. If they're translated I think I'll seek out the Andurien Wars series.

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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #12 on: 14 December 2014, 19:36:34 »
The Aundrian novels really make we want to play out the Victoria War and repeat some of these situations


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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #13 on: 27 December 2014, 15:00:06 »
Have you already taken a look at the first two Silent Reapers eBooks? :)
Would like to see how you rate them (for completely unknown reasons, shrouded in mystery).
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #14 on: 28 December 2014, 04:30:58 »
Have you already taken a look at the first two Silent Reapers eBooks? :)
Would like to see how you rate them (for completely unknown reasons, shrouded in mystery).
I am itching to read Gejagt, but since I very much prefer print novels and also like to read my books back to back I've not purchased the individual ebook parts. Expect a review here three days after my print copy shipped. :)
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #15 on: 19 May 2015, 06:45:26 »
Update: Riskante Ziele and Gejagt were in the mail today. Expect reviews here soon. :)
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #16 on: 19 May 2015, 10:20:15 »
Looking forward to it. Especially the latter ;)
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #17 on: 25 May 2015, 06:50:52 »
Well, Gejagt took a tad bit longer to read because I got it together with Riskante Ziele which I read first. Anyways, my ratings and opinion:

Riskante Ziele / Risky (Dangerous) Targets (Ulisses, 2015) - Bear Cycle VI. Concluding the Bear Cycle, we follow the Biting Bear's Bashes through a MRBC trial for their actions Saiph. Convicted of breaching their contract, they fall on hard times financially and have to resort to illegal missions including murder to stay afloat, until a year-long garrison contract in Lyran space (which is just glossed over as the novel jumps ahead a year) consolidates their finances. Next up is a rebel support mission on Pike IV that reminded me of a video game mission from MW2:Mercs (I think), and then finally a black ops against Word of Blake on Mars - infiltrate their Clantech research factories and steal parts and data, or if possible even 'Mechs. Naturally, George's unit... somehow... dupes Sol and later Mars aerospace traffic control to let their combat DropShip land unopposed, then they mingle with the hapless local civilian population, bribe some WoB techs into revealing patrol schemes, yadda yadda and finally steal five different Celestial OmniMechs. Seriously. It's that easy, Wolf's Dragoons and the AMC were apparently just stupid and later played up the WoB spookiness to cover up their incompetence. Any merc unit could have walked right into Mars and stolen Celestials (in 3061 I might add). I'm a bit disappointed that George didn't get a copy of Blake's Writings signed by The Master while he was there.
After their triumphant return, their employer sets a trap for the Biting Bear's Bashes to cover their tracks lest the WoB take revenge. The last part is a drawn-out guerilla campaign where George's unit is whittled down and he himself dies in the last stand; a few of his subordinates manage to escape by impersonating mercs from the opposing force.
I am really sorry to have to say this as I really wanted to like the book, but it is probably the weakest book in the entire series. It features everything I didn't like in earlier books - episodic approach and lack of a true story arc, the feeling of being a transcript of a RPG campaign, sub-par writing that often explains things instead of narrating them, canon problems (Celesital 'Mechs are stolen from WoB in 3061 though they only debuted in 3069; plotting of another JumpShip's "jump vector" to determine where it jumped to and pursue it, which isn't possible). The individual missions are somewhat bland (especially the Pike IV campaign), and the part where the unit commits murders for money without remorse is just weird. George's Clan upbringing and honor code, which are occasionally mentioned like tacked-on window dressing (in lieu of character development), somehow don't prevent him from assassination missions but near the end he decides to die in a pointless fight just for honor, because he can't stomach dishonorably ambushing enemy forces (after having been doing exactly that for a long time) - there's a disconnect here.
The book isn't all bad though. The battle scenes, contrived as the setup may be at times, are narrated pretty well and I also like the "live by the sword, die by the sword" vibe. It's just weird how handily they duped the WoB of all factions, only to be eradicated in yet another employer betrayal which is par for the course in their merc world.
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Gejagt (Silent Reaper Zyklus) / Hunted (Ulisses, 2015) - This novel is the first German product to feature the Jihad era, which is a big issue. Consider that the Jihad had absolutely zero screen time in German products so far, and a surprisingly large portion of the German fan base doesn't read English language products. The impression I got was that most are put off by the perceived massive changes to the setting, a Clan Invasion squared so to say. And now there's a German Jihad era novel. I reckon it comes with a lot of baggage. The Jihad basically brought Shadowrun into the BT universe and the book indeed reads a bit like Shadowrun, but in a good way.
And... it works. Daniel "DarkISI" Isberner isn't new to writing, and he's an active member of the American BT community - which is to say, he's well-informed on all things WoB and Jihad. And yet, he avoided the pitfall of making his novel a Jihad introduction book; it is quite its own story. The writing is good, the pacing is fast and gripping. Quality-wise, this book is certainly on par with BattleCorps and the better BT novels out there, English and German alike. It introduces the Silent Reapers a merc unit consisting of four OmniMechs and two squads of battle armor plus axiliaries (such as infiltration experts and an ex-ComStar hacker). Specialized in black ops, they are hired for a hit against the Capra HPG and abducting the precentor. But the precentor is "interrogated" to death by the employer's interrogation specialist and the HPG blows up around the Reapers, branding them as terrorists. They go to ground and are offered to work for the WoB, the only faction who will still hire them. They warily accept while one of their agents goes back to Capra to investigate. The story forks into two branches at this point:
The Reapers, now posing as another merc unit, are confronted by a mysterious man who blackmails them with their true identity. They capture him but cannot make him reveal his backers; eventually he escapes and the Reapers realize they must have a mole inside the unit, and one unit member (the protagonist's lover) is taken hostage. The Reapers are ordered by WoB to raid Lakegaard Chemicals and succeed in the raid. The scouring of Outreach and later the supposed nuking of Tharkad make them wary, and when they discover the Lakegaard data is actually a bioweapon they refuse to further work with WoB, stalling handing over the data until the mole in the unit is uncovered.
The agent on Capra meanwhile works with the yakuza against the Reapers' former employer, House Sandoval, but it later turns out that the Sandovals actually had nothing to do with the job and were framed as much as the Reapers (whom they held responsible). Eventually, the Word of Blake is revealed to be behind it all. With the help of House Sandoval and later ComStar the agent returns to the Reapers just as they're being hunted by WoB, and turns the final battle in the Reapers' favor.
I had to think long and hard how to rate this, and finally decided to give the book only 4 out of 5 stars (initially I was going to give 4.5), because of a few issues that irked me. There's a number of punctuation, grammar and spelling errors and one or two (minor) things that I'd have highlighted as a factchecker. The worst problem for me was the setup: The Silent Reapers are supposedly an expert unit in black ops/Shadowruns/wetwork. Yet they bumble into the WoB trap like idiots in the Capra mission, with no failsafes whatsoever against a dishonest (and mistrusted) employer. And the simple threat to kill his daughter totally tames the unit commander and makes him to the employer's bidding against his better judgement. No contingency plans, no nothing. Further, this black ops unit, who have no qualms whatsoever about gunning down the precentor's four bodyguards, becomes surprisingly wimpy all of a sudden about the possibility that the captive might be tortured to death, even afraid of being complicit in "murder". Gunning down hapless bodyguards, agents and sentries left and right apparently doesn't count as murder to them though.
And then there's that odd scene with the four ROM agents in the mortuary. Not only are they stupid enough to be caught pants-down (after not even posting a guard!), they don't even attempt to fight despite their fancy weaponry but simply commit suicide. WTF was that?!
But really, these are minor points; similar loopholes exist in many BT stories and the novel is still a fun ride.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
« Last Edit: 25 May 2015, 06:59:26 by Frabby »
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #18 on: 25 May 2015, 07:23:52 »
I intended the suicide scene as a plot hook. Why the hell would ComStar agents not gun their way out when face with the Reapers?
The ending was intended to solve this: CS wanted the Reapers to work for them, they needed them for something. Given that, gunning down their agents was an absolute no-go. Getting captured was the same, because they didn't know who inside the Reapers reported to WoB and could possibly have gotten information out of them. With no way to run but through the Reapers, suicide was the only option.

Regarding getting whimpy about the captured prisoners: You kill people who point their guns at you. But killing an unarmed prisoner? That's a completely different level.

And General McFaris is simply a family man. Losing his wife was too much, it sent him on a murderous revenge mission. The thought of losing his daughter, too ... (And yes, I know she could have died during any mission, but that is something else entirely. Getting killed during a job is different from getting assassinated - at least as far as he is concerned.)

Don't know if those explanations fix things for you, but they are the reasoning behind me writing it the way I did. No idea if it makes sense. ^^

Aside from that: I like that you liked it :)
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #19 on: 25 May 2015, 08:43:16 »
Makes me long for the days of BattleTech novels in the states. Hard to believe Endgame was released in 2002.

Nice reviews guys, thank you!

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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #20 on: 20 August 2015, 05:36:45 »
As of yet nobody can sell me a copy of Embers of War (Hint, hint Catalyst!). In the meantime...

Die Kanonen von Thunder Rock was in the mail today. I'm very excited, as this is a good old grognardy Clan-free 4th Succession War novel, and it looks like the author did his research and factchecking homework. Can't wait to read it, unfortunately I have a very heavy workload these days so it may be a while.

I note that the author mentioned both Sarna.net (thanks!) and this bg.battletech.com forum as helpful factchecking sources. This seems to indicate Bernd Perplies is indeed an active member of this forum community - care to step forward and drop the mask?  ;)
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #21 on: 21 August 2015, 17:05:51 »
Is there a good place to buy them to have them shipped to the US? I tried looking on Amazon, but shipping is crazy.
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #22 on: 21 August 2015, 17:41:14 »
http://www.amazon.com/Gejagt-Der-Silent-Reapers-Zyklus/dp/3957520525/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1440193205&sr=8-5

3.99 shipping seems reasonable enough to me. Then again, I have no idea what is normal in the US. :)
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #23 on: 21 August 2015, 17:53:59 »
Ah I didn't catch that one. Granted it has been awhile since I looked so their stocks and locations might have changed.

Danke!
« Last Edit: 21 August 2015, 17:57:27 by Bongfu »
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #24 on: 23 August 2015, 05:29:22 »
Quote
This seems to indicate Bernd Perplies is indeed an active member of this forum community - care to step forward and drop the mask?
Good morning everyone. :) To be honest, I just became a member of this forum in very recent times (while writing the novel). I realized that it is quite difficult to find some information about life in the BT universe (not to mention sort out some inconsistencies) and that it would be quite helpful to have a community of specialists as backup. I also would like to apologize to some of you I misled a little bit while asking my questions, because I didn't want to mention the novel as long as it wasn't published.

But now it is released and I am very happy. If some of you are interested, I have some bonus material on my website (like a Wallpaper and photos of painted miniatures depicting the Zeus and the Centurion the leaders of the two warring parties are piloting): http://www.bernd-perplies.de/books-bt28.htm

Bernd

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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #25 on: 02 September 2015, 03:55:43 »
Aaand... review added.
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #26 on: 02 September 2015, 04:27:53 »
Ah I didn't catch that one. Granted it has been awhile since I looked so their stocks and locations might have changed.

Danke!

You are welcome :)
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Re: Frabby's review of the German BattleTech novels
« Reply #27 on: 16 September 2015, 17:44:28 »
I may add a bit to the Bear Cycle (2-6): It was at first aimed to be more than just 6 books, but Heyne cut it down, thus, some plot points just had to fall through, and the finish had a bit to be rushed. In my view, the final stand makes sense, as a unit can only take so much without falling apart. George's final sacrifice allowed his people to live on instead of being wiped out and try again, perhaps, with them fighting on, perhaps even winning against the Mercs, would have seen their doom by the Blakies.
I thought at first that tricking the Word at Mars would be madness, but the writer showed me some way, and remember, the Wob did not take that lightly and probably more than a few heads were rolling after this, and security got way more tight. They might even have tracked down the robbed hardware to make it useless to Kurita later, who knows. But I thought it could have worked. Wob is (was) still mostly human that time. Humans can be duped and make mistakes. Even WoB is not almighty, especially when not yet active as the Great Boogeyman with unlimited resources (tm).


Also the Clan Watch plot could not be finished, bummer for me too. He had an idea about what they were up to, but after the capture, he could not get back there due to the above mentioned reasons, it certainly could have ended better.

I enjoyed the ready very much.

(Also liked the Basilisken, but perhaps it was too long ago in the setting, I would not say it was out of reach for any House to work on stuff like that, just does not get out in the open.)

Thanks for the reviews anyway, good to know that we have quite some numbers there. And exclusive at that. :P
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New review added in first posting: Der Erbe.
« Last Edit: 13 January 2016, 16:09:46 by Frabby »
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I've moved this thread to the appropriate board.