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Marooned on the planet Marduk by an assassination attempt, Prince Roger MacClintock and his bodyguards must fight for survival as they march through steaming jungles, fighting lethal wildlife and treacherous local rulers all the way -- and it will take all his strength to get off the planet alive..
Review by Travis Starnes
What starts off as a military space fiction in the vein of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series quickly become a high tech meets low tech style of military fiction. I wasn’t sure what to expect after the first chapter but I really enjoyed the journey this book took me on. It is an excellent start to a series.
Let me start off by saying I felt more of Weber’s influence in this story that John Ringo’s, although I have been unable to find how much each writer contributed. The overall story arc, character progression, and setting feel like pure Weber to me while the action beats have Ringo’s finger prints all over them.
While there are a few things that could be said negatively about this title there are so many more things to like about it. There was a book I read years ago from a Greek historian and mercenary known as Xenophon of Athens called Anabasis where he accompanied 10,000 soldiers stranded deep in Persia as they fought their way back home. If you can get past the language it is a great adventure story and a March Up Country seems to be updating the Xenophon story for a science fiction setting. You have a group of elite warriors fighting through hostile territory and barbarian hordes to find a way home. If you read a lot of Weber you might recognize that he pulls a lot of the initial plots of his story lines from actual history and the choice to adapt what has come to be known as “The March of the 10,000” was a stroke of genius.
When it comes down to the character work my opinion is on the fence. Prince Roger has the most character progression I have seen in any of Weber’s novels in a very long time. Weber has him start at one end of the extreme, the spoiled rich boy, and you see him becoming a soldier and eventually a man with the makings true leader. While his journey isn’t complete by the end of this novel there are still several books to go and it is clear Weber has a plan for the Prince. Captain Pharmer also manages some decent character progression along with a handful of the supporting cast.
Unfortunately this solid use of characters is off-set by many of the supporting cast being nothing more than stereotype stand-ins. This isn’t a dig at Weber as the cardboard stand-in style of supporting cast is the curse of the Genre. With as many characters as a book or series such as this is destined to have, it’s hard to put real work into characters and their personal arc. Plus you only have so many pages and if you try and get all of the characters fully fleshed out you would hit a wall when it comes to pacing. To Webers credit he does a good job in this story of whittling those blank slates down a bit.
The story itself is well constructed and I found the pacing to be excellent. The action is written very well in a face passed style. There is much less of the strategic maneuvering, large scale battle overviews, and long technical explanations that readers have come to expect from Weber. I do not mean that as a dig on Weber’s writing but I have always felt it more suited the space or navel style action scenes and not this small unit tactical style action beats.
This is where Ringo seems to really step in. The pacing of the action moments is both clear in its layout and frenetic in its momentum which has you whipping through the pages when a battle scene comes up. There is definitely a strong resemblance to Ringo’s other novels and his preference for small unit military style action sense. The battles range from small and fast to truly epic at some points.
While I credit Weber for much of the success of the title, it’s the action scenes that really pushed it over the top for me.
This book suffers a bit from the white hat / black hat syndrome with evil characters that are a bit to evil and good guys are a bit too pure. This however is a crutch of much of the science fiction genre so that can’t be held too much against this book too much. I would like to see more humanized or at least somewhat rounded enemies and not just mindless evil-encompassing tyrants.
Overall, this is an excellent title, and one I would recommend to any sci-fi lover. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.