Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Friday, September 09, 2005

Uncomfortable Books

No, Not The Kind That Weigh 12 lbs...

I'm about 1/3 of the way into my latest literary acquisition, and it's starting to leave a bad taste in my mouth...

Let me give you a little backstory first. There's this series of books called 'The Legacy of the Aldenata' by a guy named John Ringo. They fall in the realm of Military-themed science fiction, which means if you like guns, mayhem, killing icky aliens by the bucketloads and the occasional bit of humor, you'll eat 'em up. If you're a pinko gun-fearing wussy, you'll likely turn up your nose at them as "fascistic fiction".

The basic premise of the novels is that an ancient race, the Aldenata, have created many minor races, and used them for amusement before splitting the galactic scene for new pastures. Mucho millenia later, the minor races are dealing with the fallout. One nasty & warlike race is spreading like a plague virus, literally eating the competition. The remaining races have formed a confederation to oppose them, but have developed into highly advanced civilizations that can no longer defend themselves, a result of inbred pacifism.

Enter the humans. Technologically speaking, they're at the level of cavemen compared to the Galactics, but they've still got that killer instinct. The Galactics drop in, let humanity know that scary monsters and super creeps are about to arrive and have a global smorgasbord, and by the way, would they like a job?

Galactic technology can rejuvenate older humans, making them about 20 years old biologically and in perfect health, but also retaining their wisdom and memories. In the U.S.A., the decision is made to rejuv all former military personnel, then re-enlist them for the duration of the conflict.

The plus is that you get all those experienced WWII, Korea & Vietnam vets ready and able to fight again. The minus is that the U.S. is not the only country doing that, and this leads me to my issue with the latest book.

It's called 'Watch On The Rhine', and is co-written by Tom Kratman. The plotline here deals with the efforts to beef up Germany's defenses prior to the alien invasion. The Bundeswehr is being sytematically crippled by the government, now largely composed of peaceniks, Greens, and the self-deluded, who still insist that you can negotiate with the carnivorous aliens. (Plot spoiler: Most of these wussy types get eaten early on! Yay!)

Germany is also being hindered by the Galactics. It's a similar situation to a pacifist hiring a bodyguard. Sure, the bodyguard will protect you from the evil critters, but once that threat vanishes, there's nothing but the bodyguard's sense of honor to keep him from taking over the pacifist's house himself. The Galactics, having no sense of honor, only self-preservation, are trying to keep the humans just strong enough to fend off the threat, yet still stay under their thumb post-invasion.

The German chancellor knows the forces at hand are not going to be sufficient, and he knows that there's one last reservoir of WWII Kraut soldiers left that haven't been called up into service. That's right, kiddies, enter the Waffen SS.

I'm not faulting the co-authors for their choice of elite troops to be the ones to add spine to the German army. Any historian worth his salt will tell you that the majority of the Waffen SS divisions were excellent at doing two things, kicking ass and chewing bubblegum, and they rarely had any bubblegum.

OTOH, the deeper I'm getting into this book, the more it resembles a paean to the SS, with vivid descriptions of SS marching songs, flags, uniforms, & insignia. Yes, the authors are quick to denounce racism, Nazism, anti-Semitism, and every other unpalatable -ism in the immediate vicinity, but even with the noble purpose they're being used for in this plot, you just can't wash clean the taint of past history. That Nazi stench just permeates everything.

I like the book, mostly. The authors can certainly tell an exciting story. There's no reason to assume that either Ringo or Kratman have a shrine to Der Fuhrer in their homes. I've read somewhere that "There's a word for those people that assume what an author writes reflects his personal philosophy. That word is Idiot".

Still, all my life I've known people that are attracted to the "dark side". You've known 'em too, I bet. The kid that when you were playing 'Star Wars' really preferred to play the Empire instead of the Rebel Alliance. That creepy guy in the school library who was always rechecking out 'Mein Kampf'. Anyone who's ever said "Hey, at least he made the trains run on time!" These are the folks attracted to the power that an authoritarian political structure offers, and the reason groups like Hitler's SA and the KKK can easily fill their ranks.

I'm not real big on promoting social responsibility, but there's a few ideals I can subscribe to. I don't leave loaded weapons laying around. I don't drive in a reckless manner. I certainly don't think I could write novels romanticizing the enforcement arm of the most evil regime in modern times.

Ultimately it's up to each reader to draw their own conclusions. That's what personal responsibility is all about. Still, I'm pretty set in my ways, and unlikely to have my ideals swayed by a book like this. I've got to wonder what the authors would think about impressionable people starting to idolize the SS as a result of this book, though.

Your thoughts are welcome!