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When The Devil Dances    by John Ringo order for
When The Devil Dances
by John Ringo
Order:  USA  Can
Baen, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

This is the third volume in a series, following A Hymn Before Battle and Gust Front, and very obviously there are more to come. It is now five years since the Posleen (an alien race of ravening near-morons led by intelligent God-Kings) have landed on Earth in countless millions, with the benefit of high technology provided by other alien races. Most of the world has been conquered, and the humans killed and eaten. The last opposition of any significance is in the central U.S., with military forces hanging on by their teeth to passes in the Alleghenies and the Rockies. A few cities are held as strongholds, but most of the remaining civilian population have been banished to Sub-Orbs, multi-level underground shelters.

The action in this volume takes place along the Appalachian Mountain range, where a new development may have disastrous consequences for the hard pressed defenders. A few of the Posleen God-Kings have been able to learn from their mistakes, and make use of the humans' tactics in a new advance to take the passes. The principal human characters are Major Mike O'Neal, and his father and daughter. The daughter, thirteen year old Cally, drop-dead gorgeous and deadly with any weapon, is obviously destined to be the heroine of the next volume, along with Anne Elgars, who has been provided with multiple personalities as a by-product of being brought back from death by alien medics.

Ringo for the first time tries to cast some light on the Posleen leadership, but his talent for three dimensional characterization seems to have deserted him, and the Posleens turn out to be only cardboard human imitations. The author has a fertile imagination (the SheVa, a 7000 ton tank, is fascinating), and his large cast of characters is enlivened by both exciting and humorous incidents. The detailed description of battles and skirmishes occasionally becomes tedious, but on the whole the book is well worth reading, and certainly required reading for the military science fiction buff.

The events of 9/11 may have had some influence on his writing; some tough questions are raised about the conflict of interest between the military and its political masters, and between Americans and allies with different goals and interests, and immense collateral damage to property and human life is tacitly accepted as inevitable. On a personal note; I approve the author's evident admiration of Rudyard Kipling, who is quoted throughout, but I cannot agree with his interpretation of the poems, which are not simpleminded applause for the soldiery, as he seems to think.

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