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Star Marines: Book Three of the Legacy Trilogy    by Ian Douglas order for
Star Marines
by Ian Douglas
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2007 (2007)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Star Marines begins with the Xul (also known as the Hunters of the Dawn) arriving six light-hours from Earth, dispatched by the Lords Who Are to exterminate the vermin who destroyed one of their Hunterships. As, unbeknownst to them, the enemy nears, Brigadier General Clinton Vincent Garroway and his nephew, Gunnery Sergeant Travis 'Trigger' Garroway participate in an exercise on Mars to test the capabilities of a new dispersal technology, one man pods (IMACs) that the Marines call shit-cans.

The Xul apply their collective consciousness to manipulate quantum reality and deflect asteroids towards Earth. Despite a heroic mission (involving Trigger and his fellow Marine and partner Angelina 'Chrome' O'Meara as well as an AI named Quincy) that ultimately destroys the Huntership, a massive asteroid gets through Earth's defences. It devastate the planet in what becomes known as Armageddonfall, with tidal waves, extreme weather and a new ice age in addition to the direct effects of the bombardment. Mankind is on the verge of extinction and it's clear the Xul will be back to finish the job.

Man's allies, the N'Mah, suggest that all efforts go towards building asteroid starships as interstellar arks - as they have done for their own people - so that a small percentage of survivors can escape and hide. But Brigadier General Garroway believes that the war needs to be taken to the enemy, no matter how powerful, in order to win time to save more of Earth's population. He uses the analogy of a caveman sneaking up behind a high-tech Marine, armed with a stone ax. Both options are pursued and, of course, Trigger and Chrome volunteer (along with an engaging new recruit from Ishtar) for Task Force Seafire in what's called the Doolittle Option.

Through the Stargate, they're confronted with a Xul facility the Marines nickname Deathstar. Its destruction requires stealth and timing, but of course our heroes pull it off with their usual inventiveness - and heavy casualties. Star Marines is one of the better episodes in an excellent military SF series. Ian Douglas makes it all credible by portraying unflattering human squabbling and politicking even in times of deep crisis, and by incorporating solid science and tactical expertise. And though the supposedly invulnerable Xul were beaten a tad too easily, I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and, as always, look forward to more.

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