The Final Battle by William C. Dietz
Published by Titan Books, August 2014. Paperback of 339 pages at £7.99.
The cover: A cyborg warrior whose uniform is in camouflage stands with its back to an explosion or sun while it holds its weapon ready. It looks fierce. Terrific image to give readers a taste of what is to be found within this book. The image is credited to Dreamstime/Funny Little Fish and they did a sweet job in showing readers, and potential fans, what to expect. Overall grade: A-
The premise: From the back cover, “Far in the future, condemned criminals and the fatally ill have two choices: to die, or to join the Legion of the Damned, an elite fighting force made up of human legionnaires and cyborg soldiers. If they enlist, their bodies will be destroyed and their minds implanted in gigantic armored killing machines, programmed to fight for the Human Empire. Decades ago, the corrupt Imperial government was overthrown and the Hudathans defeated. But peace with such an aggressive alien race could not last, and war has broken out once more. The Hudathans, imprisoned on the very planet they devastated, are on the rise–and this time they have a cyborg army of their own.” I read the first book, Legion of the Damned, and am interested to see how time has treated familiar characters and how the Hudathans can escape from their prison world, though this summary does seem to be spoiling some surprises. Overall grade: B+
The characters: There are several returning characters from the previous novel, but one need not have read it to enjoy them. General Natalie Norwood is now in charge of Worber’s World which is being used to house all Hudathan prisoner of wars. She has been changed by the war and does certain things to herself while watching what happens down on Worber’s with spy cameras. I would have enjoyed her more without that tweak to her character. She has her eye especially on War Commander Poseen-Ka who longs for the opportunity to make up for his failings during the war. He gets that chance and earns an important position during the new war. Also returning is Sergi Chien-Chu, who has survived death by having himself placed in a cyborg body, though it is very different from the military cyborgs. He’s enlisted to help fight the Hudathans, and make up for his kindness at the war’s close. William B. Booly, Jr., the son of William Booly, Sr. and Windsweet of the Naa, is a fantastic character. Half-human and half-Naa (a feline race) he added some nice integrity to the Legion’s rosters and was fun to see in action. Also taking major roles are “The Triad of One,” the Clone Hegemony’s leaders, Alpha Clone Marcus-Six, Antonio, and Pietro. All three have opinions on what to do during the battle, and naturally they’re not in synch. I really enjoyed all these characters and found myself falling completely into each of their tales. Overall grade: A
The settings: Worber’s World starts the book off with the Hudathans planning to make their opening attack, and it’s a ruin of a world from the last war. It was described as a wreck and that’s exactly the way it was described. Clone World Alpha-001 is the homeworld of the clones and several chapters are set there. It’s a perfectly organized world without much differentiation, emphasizing the lack of originality among clones. The book’s final battle ends above and on Algeron, the end of the first battle and homeworld of the Naa. It’s a jungle world with plenty of rocky and wet terrain. It was nice to return to this enjoyable world and see some new sights. Overall grade: A
The action: It takes a while for the Hudathans to start the war up; almost one third of the book. The build is logical for the reality of the book, but I was getting fidgety waiting for the action to begin. The back of the book had spoiled what was going to happen, so I was anxious to get there. Luckily, once the action begins it doesn’t stop. The war is being fought on several different fronts, with the humans completely unprepared. The alien cyborgs were neat, and I liked seeing them in action. The final battle was a definite nail biter and had me on pins and needles wondering if the humans would survive. If this is how a book makes a reader feel, it’s successful. Overall grade: A-
The conclusion: It’s really quick. Too quick, in fact. The major threat is removed and then everything is resolved in three pages. I don’t think the losing side would fall that fast. Overall grade: B+
The final line: I enjoyed this book more than the first novel. It’s got plenty of hard core, take-no-prisoners action to satisfy fans of military fiction and plenty of alien strangeness and horrors of space for sci-fi fans. Plus it’s got characters to root for and to hiss. An entertaining read. Overall grade: A-
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.