24 December 2011

Review of Battletech: Ideal War

Ideal WarIdeal War by Christopher Kubasik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm currently re-reading Ideal War. It is one of my favorite Battletech novels; however, among most fans it gets less love. Why is that you ask?

Well, first of all, Ideal War is set in the Free Worlds League that is lead by House Marik. The vast majority of fans prefer the Federated Suns and House Davion. Davion's enemies are the Chinese-Russian Cappellan Confederation (Liao) and the Japanese Draconis Combine (Kurita). The Federated Suns itself is a constitutional monarchy similar to England under the reign of the three Georges; that is, the monarch has more power than Parliament. Most of the novels are set with the scions of House Davion as the heroes of the Inner Sphere.

The FWL, on the other hand, is a loose democratic confederation headed by the Captain-General of House Marik. For over 300 years, since the beginning of the Succession Wars and the crisis that entailed, the Captain-General has ruled as a military dictator under the provisions of the legally-passed Resolution 288. Fortunately, the Captain-Generals have, for the most part, been benevolent and somewhat idealistic in their stance. The member worlds of the League still meet in Parliament and finance the military and can even refuse to send their own troops if they feel necessary; it is not a one-way street with the Captain-General in absolute control. In fact, he really only has a full say in matters of war and foreign policy. Enter the current Captain-General, Thomas Marik.

Thomas Marik assumed the Captain-Generalship when his father and older brother were killed in a terrorist bombing. He himself was wounded in the attack and half of his face was horribly disfigured. He was originally a member of the quasi-monastic ComStar, the organization that maintain the Hyper-Pulse Generators that allow interstellar communication. He is also an idealistic and has a plan.

You see, the Inner Sphere is gained better technology and, as a result of that technology warfare is beginning to target civilians again. Thomas is worried that total warfare will result in the total destruction of human civilization as it almost did before the Ares Conventions (think the Geneva Accords) were enacting, The Ares Conventions limit warfare and make it more of a battle of maneuver and skill rather than brute force. With the new technologies and economies of the Inner Sphere gearing up to full production for the first time in centuries, Thomas is concerned that once again the other four Successor Lords will use people like pawns in a chess game. To create a shining beacon of hope (and also to cement his control of the member-states of his League), Thomas creates a romantic vision and forms the Knights of the Inner Sphere, an order of Mechwarriors who swear personalty to him and the ideals of Chivalry.

The book focuses in on Paul Masters, the leader of the Knights on his first mission to a world named Gibson. and this is why most fans do not care for this book. Kubasik is obviously drawing on memories of the Vietnam War. Mercenaries in battlemechs are fighting guerrillas attempting to win their freedom. Masters is there to help the planetary government against these rebels. Things like body-counts, use of mechs against the civilian population all hearken back to Vietnam. Masters has to come to grips with the grittiness and horror of the war and determine a course of action that will fulfill his obligations while helping the oppressed population.

This is definitely worth reading and is most assuredly not in the vein of the usual action-adventure motif of the other Battletech novels.

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