Thursday, June 25, 2015

Big Boys Don't Cry, Hugo Nominated Work by Tom Kratman

I've been a fan of Tom Kratman since around 2003, I believe, beginning with "A State of Disobedience," and a fan of Keith Laumer's Bolos for even longer.
I love the power of the Bolo. I love their affection for their people, and their devotion to duty. I love reading that they do an internal system diagnostic that takes exactly .00000036 seconds. But what I really love about the Bolo is not their strength; what I really love about them is their weakness.
You simply can't have a story about an invulnerable hero, or even an invulnerable villain. That's why Superman has to have Kryptonite and Lois Lane. they provide the means by which he may be attacked, and so the stories become cliffhangers: how will he get out of THIS one? There's always one thing about a Bolo story you can count on: someone is going to become more human. Sometimes it's a Bolo, sometimes it's a person, maybe even an alien, but there will ALWAYS be a point at which the invincible machine produces an effect that you recognize as duty, compassion, sadness, or joy. So, I love Bolos.
And Kratman. Yeah, he's just mean as a damn snake. His Army experience and mine are very different. I was an enlisted medic in Germany right at the tail end of Viet Nam (72-75). He did a hitch as an enlisted man in the 101st and 193rd (and hey, I just looked up his terms of service. Turns out he went in in 1974 as a 17 year old. That's about the time I made E-5 at age 21, so I can boast that I once outranked the little snot-nose), and upon discharge, went to college on the Army's dime, being commissioned as an officer upon graduation in 1980. After doing lots of nasty, dirty, essential stuff in the field and in (shudder) headquarters, he retired as a light colonel in 2006. We both saw some of the same idiocy; I was just immune to most of it, being a low-ranking enlisted man. I only HAD to do stupid tasks. Kratman had to deal with stupid policy. No wonder he's bonkers.
But, in his writing, he expresses it all. It's a wonderful cathartic experience to read a Kratman series, or a stand alone books, like State of Disobedience. Good guys are GONNA win, but they are going to pay a frakken price for the victory. That's pretty much the way it goes, too; if you don't have some tough, determined hardcases, willing to do hard things, then pretty soon you have to say goodbye to sleeping peacefully in your soft bed.
And so, when I heard he had written this Bolo work, I was at first pleased, but then, a little nervous.Why? Well,,,I really didn't WANT a Bolo to crucify the bad guys. And I couldn't see how a Bolos personality could ever bring that about; but, I knew the kind of books Kratman writes.
Leave it to Kratman. He gets the job done.
Look, I CAN'T tell you what happens without busting out with spoilers. What I CAN do is assure you that Col Tom treats the franchise with respect. He makes you believe in the person of Maggie, the Bolo. And he provides, through Maggie's glimpses into her days of programming, the proper motivation for a Bolo story ONLY Kratman could write.
Look, I'm guid an bluidy sorry tha' I can tell you na more. It's just the way it is. Get the book, either through "Ride The Red Horse" by Castalia Press, or the story by itself, on Amazon; it's in the KU program. And ye might not cry, though if ye do, it'll be no bad thing. I can assure ye, though, ye'll from time ta time be findin a lump in tha throat.
Ye ha been warned.

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