Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bolos Book 5: Old Guard

This week I've decided to return to my ever-favorite Bolo series with the "fifth" (although technically eighth or so) installment, Old Guard. I quite enjoyed this novel and liked seeing the new Mark XXXIV Bolos, an expansion of the universe beyond the original canonical XXXIII Marks. The book helps to expand the universe of the Bolos, as other books have done before, while remaining in many respects still grounded by the existing canon. The fateful Melconian War is on the background, and in previous novels we've already seen the unfortunate effects of that conflict, but the determination of the Bolos and their human commanders remains hopeful.

This novel keeps the by now familiar formula of a series of short stories about Bolos in various battles, but takes in a new direction by instead focusing on one specific campaign. Instead of a series of stories scattered across both time and location, three of the four stories in this novel talk about the Kezdai invasion of the planet Delas on the far edges of Concordiat territory. We get to see the initial incursion by the Kezdai onto Delas, which is pushed back by a handful of Bolos, a renewed Kezdai invasion that is slowed by a renewed presence of Bolos, and then the eventual destruction of Kezdai forces on Delas. It was interesting to see an entire campaign that requires numerous Bolos over a period of years, even if only in a handful of snapshots. It makes me wonder what a full-length Bolo book will be like and I hope that I'll be able to run into them as I continue my way through the series. The final story also talks about the Kezdai invasion, although on a separate planet called Izra'il. Although it's a different story it at least keeps with the theme of the Kezdai invasion, helping to tie it in with the others.

Honestly, plot-wise there's just not a lot of variation here. It's the same formula you've seen a dozen times already and will see a dozen times in the future. Some sort of threat shows up. People call upon Bolos to defeat threat. Bolos then defeat threat in the raddest way possible. It's not groundbreaking, pushes no envelopes, and won't win any awards, but personally I'm okay with that. As long as you go into every Bolo book expecting nothing more than some fun pulp sci-fi adventures with giant tanks, you won't be disappointed. However, I am hopeful about the development of a Bolo story into a full-length novel, which I'm aware may be some of the later books.

- Kalpar

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