Nov 30, 2017

[Books] Battletech: Hearts of Chaos Review

When things get to crazy, it's nice to retreat into familiar book worlds, and thus I keep returning to the war-torn Inner Sphere of the Battletech novels. I'm still working through all the Classic era novels and I don't know when I'll get around to the Dark Ages books, but hey it makes for a fun challenge.

Hearts of Chaos is one of those fun books that is linked to other titles in the series. With so many authors having contributed to the franchise, a lot of books end up being one-offs that feature a particular group here or there and then that's the last we'll ever hear of them.

But this book taps other characters introduced into the Battletech universe by this same author, who did go on to being one of the more prolific authors tied to the franchise. It's not quite as polished as some of his later books but it does show a bit of ambition in terms of tying things together into a larger story. And that's something that deserves to be appreciated for what it's worth in the long term.

Synopsis: Battletech: Hearts of Chaos is the second book written by Victor Milán documenting the adventures of Camacho's Caballeros after Close Quarters. It still take place during the Clan Invasion era between 3056-3058.

Camacho's Caballeros continued on fulfilling their contract with Chandrasekhar Kurita on the world of Hachiman until it is decided that the secret Black Dragon Society was making a move  on Towne. The group claims to have the best interest of the Draconis Combine in mind and are determined to resume old hostilities against House Davion instead of focusing on the conflict with the Clans. Thus the Caballeros are sent to the contested world of Towne to protect Uncle Chandy's assets there and hopefully act as a counter force against any Black Dragon aggression.

But even with the knowledge of the coming attack the Caballeros find themselves unwelcome on Towne. It could just be the natural suspicion when it comes to foreign mercenaries. But it could be part of a more organized effort to destabilize any possible resistance on the planet. But the Caballeros always do their best to fulfill a contract - even when the cards seemed to be arrayed against them.

What I Liked: Cassie Suthorn may seem to be a near-perfect character at times but she is still a fascinating one. Her unique skill set as a mech-hating scout is a ground basis for story ideas and she does get into some unusual situations in the book. But she's a solid enough character with great instincts and a propensity to be wherever she needs to be at the right time. And that's a pretty good thing.

The book also featured some interesting combat situations and not just the already familiar anti-mech tactics Cassie is known for. This time around we had the interesting argument that older atmospheric planes in the hands of skilled pilots might still pose a decent threat against BattleMechs and even rival Aerospace fighters. It seems a little silly but the arguments are somewhat sound, especially when it comes to heat.

What Could Have Been Better: The overall plan that the Caballeros employed in their efforts to survive on Towne wasn't all that great and in that regard I wasn't that convinced that the Cabelleros are that notable a mercenary group. Considering their initial loses as they were caught by surprise and how long it took them to recover prisoners and their mechs, it felt oddly inefficient.

And then we have some weird character arcs like Cassie falling in love and the capture  and psychological torture the Dark Lady, Kali MacDougall, felt weird and somehow not what I had come to expect from them. The situation made sense and the possible outcome made sense but it still felt wrong when it boiled down to who we know these characters to be. And the whole Wolf Girl bit and so much build-up only to end on a whimper. I didn't get that at all.

TL;DR: Battletech: Hearts of Chaos doesn't quite fully sell you on why you should like Camacho's Caballeros, but it's still a decent adventure. It has a good variety of combat but perhaps not as much tactical mech combat as I'd like, but it's still quite enjoyable. Thus the book gets 3 surprise encounters with Wolf Girl out of a possible 5.

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