I am overjoyed to introduce you all to one of my favorite people in the world. My brother. He’s joining my Court of Reviews as the Baron of Books! *happy dance* He’s been a huge support of my endeavors to get The Book Tart up and running. In fact, when I was manually trying to enter in all the new book release data by hand a few years ago, he helped me out and saw more romance covers and plot synopsis than the majority of males ever do, or at least will admit too :p I adore him. He’s smart and funny and snarky and he’s blushing as he’s reading this I know. :p I asked if he would review a book he recently read and he started telling me about this Battletech novel. He said you definitely do NOT have to have read the rest of the series to get into this story because it gives the background you need to enjoy it. Which is a huge relief because I’m a science fiction fan and this review intrigued me, so I went and looked up the series. There are 63 stories in the Classic Battletech collection! So, please give a warm welcome to the Baron of Books and take a look at Close Quarters.
(((hugs))) The Queen of Tarts, Kat
The Baron of Books Review of
Close Quarters by Victor Milan
So as I try to write this review, I find it rather hard. Some have suggested I treat it like I’m telling a friend about this book, and I think I’ll try that. Though, as always, I’ll put my own spin on it.
Firstly, the basics, just to get them out of the way. This is a review of Close Quarters, a Battletech Novel by Victor Milan. Published (at least, according to the web) in 1994. Which, interestingly enough, is a little later than I thought it was published.
In case you’re interested, here’s the Synopsis:
SHE WAS THE PERFECT SCOUT
Resourceful, ruthless, beautiful, apparently without fear, Scout Lieutenant Cassie Suthorn of Camacho’s Caballeros is as consummately lethal as the giant BattleMechs she lives to hunt. Only one other person in the freewheeling mercenary regiment has a hint of the demons which drive her. When the Caballeros sign on to guard Coordinator Theodore Kurita’s corporate-mogul cousin in the heart of the Draconis Combine, they think they’ve got the perfect gig: low risk and high pay. Cassie alone suspects that danger waits among the looming bronze towers of Hachiman–and when the yakuza and the dread ISF form a devil’s alliance to bring down Chandrasekhar Kurita, only Cassie’s unique skills can save her regiment.
All she has to do is confront her darkest nightmares.
As I previously stated, I’ve been having trouble writing this review. which I find very puzzling, as really, I loved this book. Battletech, for those of you who don’t know, is a futuristic science-fiction universe set in the thirty-first century. I first got into it with the pc games, where I fell in love with the big stompy Battlemechs (think bipedal tanks). Of course, while I came for the Battlemechs, I stayed for the rich and wonderful universe. Close Quarters is a wonderful example of that universe.
I’ve been told that a good way to do this review would be to mention some stuff I liked. Now, it’d be a little unfair to just say “I loved the entire book”, wouldn’t it? Well then, stuff I liked about this book. Firstly, the characters. Good and bad, male and female, Victor Milan’s characters are memorable. From the vicious and dangerous protagonist of Cassie Suthorn to the incredibly obese and clever Chandreska Kurita, or Uncle Chandy, as he likes to be called. They’re a wonderfully diverse group. The mercenary unit that Cassie runs with is a hilariously oddball mix of warriors, combining stoic Catholics with Jewish cowboys (I kid you not) and mixing in a few Navajos as well.
I feel the women of the book shine particularly bright, personally.
Cassie especially is one of my favorite characters, battered and emotionally scarred barely even begins to describe her, but the hellish trials of her young life have formed her into steel. She shares a deep loyalty to her adoptive family, and loyalty to family is something that always strikes true with me. Alongside the diminutive, intense hellion of Cassie, there’s the lanky, easy-going and curvacious mercenary Kali MacDougall, or “Lady K”.
Then there’s Lainie Shimazu, cold Yakuza and colonel of a Kuritan Ghost Regiment. Ghost Regiments are not nice groups, and considering the fact that in their area of space, women aren’t always looked at as much, the fact that she commands such a lethal and battle-hardened unit makes her a force to be reckoned with.
And finally, though the character dies without ever really getting any actual face-time (her death is mentioned pretty quick in the first chapters), Patricia Camacho, daughter of the mercenary unit’s founder, and from the ramifications of her death, arguably the glue that had held the unit together. Over the course of the story, you see as the entire unit reels from her brutal death on a far-off world, defending her family. As an added pain, she was also one of the few that actually took the time to try and befriend the extremely prickly Cassie, and several sections of the book cover Cassie dealing with the loss of a friend.
Really, as I think back on the book, I grin and realize that there are a lot of characters I could mention. Frankly, I liked most of them. They all had a sense of “real” to them. Of being messed up, weird and crazy people. But the Caballeros and assorted supporting cast were endearingly memorable, in all of their goofiness.
Of course, good characters only makes the book okay, it takes a good plot (with plenty of action) to get things into the “super-good” realm. And Close Quarters doesn’t disappoint. The plot is part political drama, focusing on the internal machinations of the Draconis Combine, where even the mere hint of being disloyal to the Coordinator (the man who runs the Combine) is punished swiftly by the dreaded Internal Security Force (ISF).
The other half of the plot, of course, deals with the Caballeros and their attempt to find a quiet haven in which to rest and regain their strength. The book quickly shows that they’ve been through hell in the months leading up to this point. Their unit’s previous contract pitted them against the dreaded Clan Smoke Jaguar, where they lost their beloved Patricia and in a sense, their leader as well. For a man who’s just lost his daughter, Don Carlos Camacho behaves in much the way you might expect, he’s shut down and barely there, leaving the operation of his unit up to his seconds. For a unit so focused on family, you might be able to imagine how it reacts to the father-figure simply withdrawing away inside himself.
On top of the plot itself comes the descriptions, and I want to especially express this. Victor Milan paints you a picture with his descriptions. The city of Hachiman comes alive with every sentence, the battles that take place throughout the book are engrossing and utterly vicious as hardened military units clash with each other. Every time I thought about putting the book down and doing something else for a bit, his words drew me back in, making me care about the plight of the harrowed Caballeros.
Now, there were things I didn’t like as well, but they’re mostly small-time and some of them even made for a better book, in my opinion, adding another layer of realism to the characters. The Don’s son, Gabby Comacho, is arguably a hot-headed, sexist pig. And if that were all he were, he’d be despicable. But then, he’s also a young man who’s just lost his sister, and as his father remarks, is going to spend the rest of his life trying to measure up to a ghost. This turns him from vile into heart-wrenching in an instant as you realize the depth of his character.
What else can I say? I don’t want to spoil the plot for you, as I hope you’re going to read this book. So I suppose that’s what I’ll say. Go read this book, it’s quite a tale.
Regards, The Baron of Books