Feb 3, 2017

[Books] Battletech: D.R.T.

So I know I didn't exactly love Main Event as far as Battletech novels go, but my commitment to finishing all of the Classic Battletech novels means that I still need to read D.R.T., James D. Long' follow-up novel to that first book about the Black Thorns mercenary company.

I read a digital copy of this book and was surprised by the actual cover used in this mass market release edition since it's actually a bit of a spoiler from the end of the book. It is literally one of the last big turning points in the book depicted right there on the cover. Who does that?

I guess that's what happens when the action in the story is rather lackluster or something. If your most exciting bit that is worth a book cover is only the ending, that says something about the book. And it's not something nice to say.

Don't get me wrong - this isn't a terrible book or anything. It's just very middle of the road to the point of being a little droll. And that's sad for a Battletech books.

Synopsis: D.R.T. is a Battletech novel written by James D. Long (also Jim Long in other books). It is a direct sequel to Main Event which takes place towards the end of their term of their first mercenary contract.

So the Black Thorns mercenary company is about to wrap up with its garrison contact on Borghese. Their success against the Jade Falcon certainly works in their favor but now the young mercenary group needs to secure a lucrative contract soon otherwise the maintenance for their Clan OmniMechs will eventually bankrupt the team. And they're still committed to making sure that any job that they take ensures that they have a chance to face then Clans in battle once more.

They do manage to negotiate a new contract - this being for garrison duty on the Draconis Combine world of Wolcott. This planet was infamous for being one of the first successes against the Clans by the Inner Sphere but now rests well within Clan Smoke Jaguar occupied territory. The Draconis Combine continues to use the world as a staging group for raids and thus any garrison contracts for Wolcott actually offer the opportunity to take on high risk supplementary contracts to attack Clan targets.

What I Liked: I never put too much thought into how the world of Wolcott would work after the Clans were honor-bound never to invade it. This book does a great job of fleshing out that new reality in a manner that totally makes sense and I feel silly for never having thought about it before. The deal brokered with the Smoke Jaguars was the commitment that they would never attempt to invade the planet again. And while the Clans have maintained that commitment, it turns out they still blockaded all standard jumpship entry points into the city and occasionally conduct raids on the planet with no intent of taking the world.

So admittedly I was more curious about the big plans of how to get to Wolcott from the staging group of Luthien and the book rewards the reader in that regard by spending a lot of time on that part of the whole operation. There were some good battles on the ground, but they weren't quite as fun as the lead-up to Wolcott and the insertion on their first target Clan world.

What Could Have Been Better: The book introduces a good number of new characters but fails to give them distinct personalities or characterizations. The fact that a number of them don't make it to the end of the book makes their involvement in the story even more disappointing since their deaths end up not meaning anything to you as a reader.

The Black Thorns seem ridiculously lucky in their dealings and survive in their mission a lot longer than I thought they would. Add in the fact that tactics are not great in this book and the Clan presence on the world actually has some odd political drama that distracts them from being more effective does lead to disappointing resolutions for things. I wish he had skipped the personal drama both on Wolcott in terms of the command structure there and again on the Clan world since it was all just so much noise outside the main story.

TL;DR: Battletech: D.R.T. is a sad follow-up to Main Event that is great for background flavor but with a weak core narrative. And D.R.T. apparently stands for the corny phrase "Dead Right There" which some of the Black Thorns insist on trying to turn into a thing. The book thus only gets 3 sad Clan defenders out of a possible 5.

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