Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cartwright's Cavaliers, by Mark Wandrey

The condensed Amazon version of this review  may be found here.

I keep a list around here somewhere about things I just don't understand. The first four, of course, are found in Proverbs 30:

    19The way of an eagle in the sky,
            The way of a serpent on a rock,
            The way of a ship in the middle of the sea,
            And the way of a man with a maid.

Other items include WHY my fat black Manx cat SugarBelly INSISTS on sitting on my hands when I'm trying to use the keyboard; why I am the only person in the house who can put water in the water jug and re-fill the ice cube trays; and why did I allow myself to be persuaded to buy such an expensive iPhone and  iPad when I don't want to use any of those fabulous functions.

Well, there is another thing I don't understand: 

How is it that this book came out last December without me noticing it?

I started out fishing for books to read in the Mad Genius Club a few years back. I decided I was going to review the books written by all of the authors I found there. At first, it was just my intent to include those who were writing the columns, but I quickly added those who participated in the discussions to my to-be-read-and-reviewed list. And then, at some point, I discovered Sarah's Diner. And I adopted THAT as the source of my reading list.

And, inadvertently,  I stopped making sure I was reading MGC on a regular basis. I've fixed that, now, by the way, by subscribing, but I hadn't realized just how far I had slipped until the other day when I realized there was an entire series of Alma Boykin's that had escaped me. I'm fixing that, too.

But what STARTED it all was my review of "A Fistful of Credits, " launched at LibertyCon, just one hundred miles from my non-attending location. I devoured it with a passion, gobbled two of the prequel stories available online, and demanded MORE! Which resulted in the discovery of "The Winged Hussars;" which lead me to the brutal fact that the series had started in December, and I hadn't noticed.

I have NO excuse for that.

But, I did have a remedy! I got both of the previous works, and I read THIS one pretty much simultaneously with the first Alma Boykin series book I'd missed (you understand, I must have multiple books due to existing in multiple places, right?), enjoyed it IMMENSELY, and have already begun the second book in the series. When I finish that, I will return to finish 'The Winged Hussars,' and then pound on the table for more.

And I'm going to try to get Tightbeam to accept reviews of the two prequel stories. After I write them, of course.

But, that's all background. Here's where the review starts:

Shortly before the time the story begins, the aliens landed. We discovered they had a LOT of things that they wanted, but we didn't have much to give them in return. It was a bad thing.

Then, we found out that fighting was a rare skill, and various alien groups would happily hire humans to break things and kill people. Unfortunately, most of the jobs were sucker bets, and only FOUR of the first 100 groups of human mercenaries returned. It happened that all of them featured a horse on their insignia, so the groups became known as the Four Horsemen.

The greatest of these groups was Cartwright's Cavaliers. Through luck, hard work, luck, integrity, and luck, they became a dominant force in the industry. Thaddeus Cartwright was the commander of one of the grandest enterprises in human history, until his luck ran out, leaving elementary school-aged son Jim as the heir.

For reasons not clear to me, Jim's mother set out on a course that destroyed the mercenary company. Assets were squandered, contracts entered into without regard to profitability, and by the time young Jin turned 18, his inheritance was worth less than zero. A considerate judge allowed him a trifle which would keep him from starving for a bit.

If that weren't enough, Jim was NOT qualified for the life of a mercenary. To be blunt, he was obese, and rather uncoordinated as well. He had covertly had brain implants installed, so knowledge was easier for him to acquire, but he knew that without experience, he was pretty much good at turning pizza into solid waste, and that was it.

He needed a break, and after all the bashing he took as the lawyers broke his father's company to shreds, he really deserved one, as well. When the opportunity essentially dropped out of the sky on him, he was ready.

What follkows is some great scenes of exploding spaceships against the background of character development. Maybe it's the other way around, but it doesn't matter; the elements of  smashing great adventure are all there. Detractors may whine at the failure to consider horticulture as an acceptable alternative for an obese teen, or the appalling assumption that under-utilized humans will turn to crime, or the tendency of volcanos to erupt at inconvenient moments, but these are merely the quibbles of people who haven't gotten a nice nap recently. For everyone else, this is a great place to start reading the adventures of the  Four Horsemen.

Peace be on your household.

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