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Old 12-11-2014, 08:05 AM   #1
Nancy Fulda
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Hands-Down Best Military SF?

I know about Starship Troopers. Also about Weber's Honor Harrington series.

I could reel off a slew of other titles that fit in the general category, but I'm interested to hear which books, in your estimation, epitomize military science fiction. What distinguishes the subgenre from, say, near-future thrillers or space operas which happen to involve a military aspect? What are the core elements that make it military SF, and not something else?
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Old 12-11-2014, 08:39 AM   #2
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Armor by John Steakley.

Wrapped in a somewhat dystopian future, it covers distrust of a command structure that is disconnected and inattentive. It also gives a pretty good experiential narrative of a troop with PTSD operating in a dissociated state.

Basically I would say it Takes Heinlein's story and shifts more of the focus from philosophical and political theorizing to war fighting and emotional survival.

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Old 12-11-2014, 11:12 AM   #3
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I would say the Empire of Man series by Weber and John Ringo.


It's all about a military unit devising plans, overcoming adversity, killing bad guys, being thrown into uncertain situations, etc. Lots of talk about battle strategy, weapons, etc. There isn't much politics as the books stay with the company throughout.

For me, the core element of being military scifi is basically that is focuses on the soldiers. Instead of the Gov't saying "send in the marines, now lets talk about our trade policy", we get it from the marine's view of "okay, we're going in and this how we're going to get it done".

EDIT: i don't know if its hands-down best but its very good and its the first that pops into my mind when i hear "military scifi".
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Old 12-11-2014, 11:14 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Nancy Fulda View Post
I know about Starship Troopers. Also about Weber's Honor Harrington series.

I could reel off a slew of other titles that fit in the general category, but I'm interested to hear which books, in your estimation, epitomize military science fiction. What distinguishes the subgenre from, say, near-future thrillers or space operas which happen to involve a military aspect? What are the core elements that make it military SF, and not something else?
Jerry Pournelle's Falkenberg's Legion series (some of his other military SF, such as King David's Spaceship and the Janissaries series are pretty good as well) and Drake's Hammer's Slammers stories.

Basically IMPO Military SF is centered on the military and military conflict in the future. I would tend to put the Honor Harrington series in more of the Space Opera category (which is not a bad thing).
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Old 12-11-2014, 12:21 PM   #5
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I know you mentioned it in the OP, but Starship Troopers epitomizes military SF for me.
I think it's because the book is ABOUT the workings of the future military. The actual bug war is secondary. It's about how a future military thinks, fights and relates to society...and the cool tech they employ.

The HH books I found bogged down in detail. To me they read like a dry, future military non-fiction book might read.

I've just started the third Empire of Man book (March to the Stars) and while I'm enjoying it well enough, the series so far might as well be ancient military fiction, not Military SF. It's about fighting with pikes, and mounted cav, and black powder weapons. The SF element is incidental in the majority of the story so far. It might as well have been written as one of these trendy anachronistic historical stories that are so popular in TV and movies these day.

I'm expecting to not be crazy about 1632 for the same reason.

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Old 12-11-2014, 12:31 PM   #6
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There isn't one book or series that nails everything about the genre for me. I agree with the choices above. I'd add Scalzi's "Old Man's War" series for its life extension and cultural isolation-over-time themes. Iain Banks' Cuture series has perhaps too much whimsy but his takes on combat, both space-based and virtual reality, are awesome.
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Old 12-11-2014, 12:39 PM   #7
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Armor is my Number one. Starship Troopers and The Empire of Man Series have to be included too. Others:
Hammer's Slammers and Lt. Leary by David Drake
Destroyermen by Taylor Anderson
The Lost Regiment by William R. Forstchen
Janissaries and The Falkenberg's Series by Jerry Pournelle
The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Confederation Series by Tonya Huff
Belisarius by Eric Flint and David Drake
Raj Whitehall by David Drake and SM Stirling
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Old 12-11-2014, 01:32 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Penforhire View Post
Iain Banks' Cuture series has perhaps too much whimsy but his takes on combat, both space-based and virtual reality, are awesome.
One might say it's Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall.
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Old 12-11-2014, 04:06 PM   #9
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Already mentioned, but I'll second Hammer's Slammers by David Drake. Baen Books has three collections of the complete Hammer's Slammers stories.
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Old 12-11-2014, 06:33 PM   #10
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I'd say Drake's Hammer's Slammers best fits the description the OP asked about.
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Old 12-12-2014, 03:31 AM   #11
Nancy Fulda
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Thanks, all! This is extremely helpful, and I'll go check out the ones I haven't read already.
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Old 12-12-2014, 08:30 AM   #12
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I would say what makes something milSF is that it is based on military service and military institutions. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot else to it.

A lot of the time it's pretty backwards-looking, being retellings of historical campaigns (Hammer's Slammers, Empire of Man) or being heavily based on a particular historical period (like the 18th-19th century navy, in Honor Harrington and in David Feintuch's Seafort Saga).

I don't really mind that - I'm quite happy to read Sharpe and Hornblower, too - but the books that actually try to say something about the future of war, or the role of war in the future seem less common. I guess Starship Troopers is one.
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Old 12-12-2014, 09:35 AM   #13
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I don't really mind that - I'm quite happy to read Sharpe and Hornblower, too - but the books that actually try to say something about the future of war, or the role of war in the future seem less common. I guess Starship Troopers is one.
If you have not done so read Armor by John Steakley.
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Old 12-12-2014, 09:38 AM   #14
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You might look at Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, or , more recently, John Ringo's Posleen War series, starting with A Hymn Before Battle.
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Old 12-12-2014, 10:12 AM   #15
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You might look at Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, or , more recently, John Ringo's Posleen War series, starting with A Hymn Before Battle.
I read the first Posleen War book (at least I think we're talking about 'A Hymn Before Battle', right?) recently and liked it, but it seemed so much in the style of 'Starship Troopers' that it felt derivative.
I was not compelled to continue with the series.

I think I may just be burned out on series in general. Or is it serieses? Seri?

I'm finishing the Prince Roger series, because it's only four books and by the time I made up my mind if I liked it or not, I was half way through it....

Is "Armor" a good stand-alone read?

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