Book review of Crises And Conflicts, edited by Ian Whates

This review of Crises And Conflicts, edited by Ian Whates, was written in 2017 for the British Science Fiction Association‘s magazine, Vector.

NewCon Press, 2016, Paperback, 254pp, £12.99, ISBN 978-1-910935-17-0

CrisesandConflictsThis new anthology of 16 short stories, Crises And Conflicts, is being unilaterally deployed by NewCon Press to celebrate their tenth year of publishing.

Covering the glorious genres of Space Opera and Military SF, these stirring tales from the front line are sure to be glorious a testament to the heroic and patriotic efforts of our boys (and girls!) in battle.

Or are they? We asked General “Thunderbolt” Ross (retired) to give us his opinion on a selection of the included stories…

Howdy, Limeys!

Lance Corporal Allen Stroud’s epic description of The Last Tank Commander kicks the tyres and lights the fires with reports of an elderly tank commander, transplanted to a new world and given one final command: a tank, crewed by capable – but very raw – recruits. Their heroic and patriotic battle against overwhelming numbers of Johnny Alien to secure a colony world is war reporting at its finest. You’ll be queuing up to join the good fight after reading this one!

In Between Nine And Eleven Rear Admiral Adam Roberts reminisces about the famous victory of warships Samurai 10 and Centurion 771 against the invidious Trefoil. A piece of heroic and patriotic Space Opera, its effect is somewhat diluted by the Rear Admiral’s unlikely musings on the sneaky nature of alien weapons, both past and present, but if you can put this to one side and enjoy the exhilarating action sequences it’s a rollicking piece of reportage!

Staff Sergeant Michael Brookes knows a thing or two about cyber warfare. His report on The Ten Second War is a heroic and patriotic look at the dangers of treachery when dealing with Johnny Alien. Can they be trusted? No, they bloody can’t! And Brookes is at pains to display his deep understanding of alien computer thought processes (N.B. Perhaps a little too deep – mark this one down for observation).

Civilian meddling led to a bloody fiasco at Wotan House for retired cyborgs. In Decommissioned, First Lieutenant Tade Thompson recalls the failure of the misguided attempts there to heal the wounds left by the bitter war against invasion. Thompson’s assessment of our heroic and patriotic cyborg-enhanced soldiers is a depressing one, but their valiant struggles against the invaders quite bring a song to one’s heart!

And what of the inexplicable inclusion of Another Day In Paradise by enemy-of-the-people Amy DuBoff? Her fictionalised depiction of an unfortunate but trivial friendly fire incident in the war against the Selarks does our heroic and patriotic forces no favours whatsoever. Do you want us to lose this war, Cockamamie Amy??

Captain Robert Sharp’s Round Trip slips into the anthology as an examination of crisis, rather than conflict. The theft of a long range military transport ship from the Moon is no joking matter, and is traditionally a court martial offence. However, the Captain’s account of a bereaved hijacker’s attempting to win back his love may tug at the heartstrings of a few impressionable ‘snowflakes’ uninterested in the virtues of heroism or patriotism.

Bleeding heart liberal environmentalist claptrap infests every line of Able Seaman Nik Abnett’s Arm Every Woman. Fortunately, the heroic and patriotic soldiers it depicts squabbling eternally over scarce resources across the ruined world are not fooled by this propaganda. Instead, these committed warriors epitomise the glorious martial virtues of sisterhood and (eventually) brotherhood. Hurrah!

Well done, Chief Petty Officer Tim C. Taylor – your report on the costs and benefits of teaming humans and AI together in combat has been accepted. Hill 435 will henceforth be a recommended text at the Academy for teaching the effects of grief and loss upon our brave boys. What Hill 35 unfortunately lacks in patriotism it more than makes up for in heroism.

Edwards, Janet, 40327664 – your case study The Wolf, the Goat, and the Cabbage is outstanding. It melds elements of ‘The Cold Equations’-style logic with a damning assessment of the foolish inadequacies of diplomacy and all that jibber-jabber. But what a shame about that guy, York – a hero and a patriot, we (initially) liked the cut of his jib.
Sergeant Christopher Nuttall, your dissertation on interplanetary politics in Pickaxes and Shovels would make old General Heinlein himself proud. Keep up the good work, soldier!

Squadron Leader Whates – can we call you Ian? Ian, bloody fine job on the anthology! Well done! Also, your warning in The Gun about the chaotic nature of the chain of command in battlefield situations has been duly received and noted. Thank you for your service, Squadron Leader.

Tactics for Optimal Outcomes in Negotiations with Wergen Ambassadors is a seemingly dry and commonsense report by Major Mercurio D. Rivera on alien diplomatic protocols. Do not be fooled! Extensive analyses by our text boffins have revealed dangerously high levels of satire and possible traces of humour within this report. Exercise caution!

And last, but not least, the anthology concludes with The Beauty of Our Weapons. Commandante Gavin Smith sums up a near-perfect military career in the person of the patriotic and heroic Cain. An immortal, Cain’s progress in the art of war is admirable. From his early beginnings, rooting out possible communist sympathies in his brother, Abel, through many gloriously famous battlefields and into the far future, Cain’s conflict credentials are impeccable. If only there were more like him!

But, joking aside, Crises And Conflicts is a great read, mixing the expected full-on crash-bang pyrotechnics with examinations of future soldiery, advanced or unexpected weapons and the human condition. War isn’t just about guns and violence, and Ian Whates has put together an apt, fun and thoughtful celebration of a decade of NewCon Press.


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