Michael Z. Williamson is an author whose name I recognize but whom I had never read until now. I’m not quite sure why this is, other than the fact that there are simply more writers and books than the average reader can keep up with and as I might stand in front of a row of books at the book store, trying to choose a title and/or author I would look for books that might appeal to me, and military science fiction has never been high on that list for me. I’ve read Joe Haldeman and Pournelle and Heinlein and even, more recently, Brad Torgerson, all whom are often writers of military based sci-fi, but it’s never been a primary or strong interest for me. And so Michael Z. Williamson pops up in my book review queue, and I put it off. I associate him with military sci-fi. Even the title of this book, Tour of Duty, speaks to the military aspect. But I get around to it because it is short stories, and I love reading short stories.
And I really enjoy this work.
Every story in this collection is well-written. The stories are exciting and the characters strong individuals. I actually looked forward to sitting down and opening up this book and being transported away to some other place and experiencing some sort of journey. This is precisely what you look for in short stories, and it is this sort of collection that will lead a reader to the author’s longer works.
The ‘provocations’ on the other hand …. Williamson ends the collection with some essays on personal battles he has endured. That he has an ax to grind and is resentful and bitter is more than just a little apparent. I do not, in any way, mean to suggest that Williamson is in the wrong with any of what he has to say, and his attitude is understandable, given the situations he writes about. But the tone is so forceful and so angry, that it is difficult to read the works objectively (and clearly he doesn’t want us to be objective…he wants us to stand up with him and fight off ‘the man.’
But what I get from these essays is … well … have you ever walked in to a science fiction only bookstore, or visited a science fiction or comics convention? There are individuals at these locations who are always ‘right’ and who always seem to have a beef with someone or something, and of course the individual, being the more intelligent and full of more common sense, doesn’t understand how no one else sees his/her problem. And this individual is never shy. S/he speaks loudly so that others can hear. Have you encountered this sort of individual? That’s how these essays came off, to me. The written form of these diatribes by people I generally want to dis-associate myself from. Right or wrong, doesn’t matter. It’s the very fact that I have to have this in front of me, that I don’t enjoy.
It means the book ended on a note that was less than delightful, and that’s too bad, because the stories here are worth reading.
This book includes the following:
“The Humans Call it Duty”
“Time in The Freehold Universe”
“The Brute Force Approach”
“One Night in Baghdad”
“Naughty But Duty”
“The Sword Dancer”
“The Groom’s Price With Gail Sanders”
“The Bride’s Task” (with Gail Sanders)
“Heads You Lose”
“A Hard Day At The Office”
“Misfits” (with Gail Sanders)
“So You Are Going To Be Raided By Vikings”
“Random Maunderings About The Celtic Peoples”
“The Manly Way To Cook Meat”
“The Ten Manliest Firearms”
“Ten More Manly Firearms”
“The Mosin Nagant”
“On Reparations Generally, For The Descendents Of People Long Departed”
“My True Encounters With The Indianapolis Police Department”
Looking for a good book? Tour of Duty by Michael Z. Williamson, is a collection of really good, military-oriented science fiction short stories and some so-so non-fiction.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Tour of Duty: Stories and Provocations
author: Michael Z. Williamson
publisher: Baen Books
paperback, 352 pages