Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bolo Rising, by William H. Keith, Jr.

As last week's post was some pretty heavy stuff, I decided to take a bit of a break and head back to one of my all-time favorite series, the Bolos. This week I read more of William H. Keith, Jr.'s work in the full-length novel, Bolo Rising. This particular book is set well after the Final War between the Concordiat of Man and the Melconians, set on the distant human colony world of Cloud. Faced with the chance that humanity will be utterly destroyed in the escalating cataclysm of the Final War, humanity began sending multiple colonies to the far reaches of the galaxy in a hope that at least some of these widely-dispersed settlements would survive and prevent humanity's extinction. Cloud is one such colony and has thrived for nearly two hundred years in a neighborhood close to the galactic core. Unfortunately a mysterious and incomprehensible mechanical enemy, known only as the !*!*!, attacked Cloud about a year ago and currently keep humanity in slave labor camps on the surface, for inscrutable reasons. Humanity's only hope lies in Hector, the Mark XXXIII Bolo corrupted by the !*!*! and used as a guard outside one of the prison camps. If humanity can take back their greatest protector, they may be able to strike back against their mechanical oppressors.

Honestly, aside from changing up what sort of enemy humanity's facing and changing the type of Bolo and their personality, this book isn't terribly different from most of the others that I've read. Some sort of alien menace that threatens to overwhelm humanity. Bolos come in. Bolos help humanity fight alien menace. It becomes a very close thing at several points, with a chance that humanity and the Bolos will be beaten, but more often than not they end up carrying the day. The short stories definitely had more variation, but I think that's simply because there were more of them, allowing a larger sample size. Because of the mechanical nature of the !*!*! you sort of get a justification for some humans being suspicious of the Bolos and whether we can really trust our mechanical protectors, but it doesn't really come to the fore in this book and as always the fears of rogue Bolos proves incredibly unfounded. I kind of wished we learned more about the !*!*! and their motivations, their origins and so on, but it turns out that even they don't exactly know their own motivations and origins. (Although I don't know if that makes for a good character or just lazy writing. It's hard to say)

Aside from the pulp sci-fi tank action nonsense that happens in this book, and most of the other Bolo books, it's really hard to justify them as literature. They're sort of like action schlock movies, but in book form. Pretty to look at and all manner of stupid sorts of fun, but not necessarily great literature. Of course, I happen to really like that sort of thing, and I really hope other people do too, but there's just not a lot of substance otherwise.


- Kalpar

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