Oct 23, 2018

[Books] The Hunters (Twilight of the Clans - Book 3) Review

The Twilight of the Clans story arc is one with potentially epic implications at the end of things but one that is a little tricky to enjoy. As this is my first (albeit delayed) time to read this part of Battletech's history, I'm experiencing all this with fresh eyes. But that doesn't automatically mean it's a perfectly enjoyable experience every step of the way. And man, it is taking forever for this multi-book event to get into gear.

The Hunters addresses the first leg of the journey of Task Force Serpent, the long-range strike against the Smoke Jaguar homeworld of Huntress. Similar to the situation in Grave Covenant, the forces sent beyond the known territories of the Inner Sphere were a mixed group that drew from pretty much all the major political factions under the banner of the new Star League. And that's both the fleet's biggest benefit and also its biggest challenge.

Figuring out how to bring together former enemies to work together is never easy. What more when they're working in the cramped confines of interstellar starships with long periods of tense waiting for something to happen. That's a powder keg right there.

Synopsis: Battletech: The Hunters is the third book in the Twilight of the Clans series and was written by Thomas S. Gressman. This was his first book for the Battletech series.

After the Whitting Conference, Task Force Serpent was assembled on the world of Defiance to undergo an accelerated integration training program before heading out to find the Clan Smoke Jaguar homeworld of Huntress as based on the information shared by the defector Trent. The group included line units from the various Successor States including DEST strike teams, some of Marik's Knights of the Inner Sphere to help act as a moral compass for the military task force along with some of the oldest mercenary groups in the Inner Sphere with ties to the Star League - the Eridani Light Horse and the Northwind Highlanders.

The journey ahead is a long and arduous one that has the task force doing its best to navigate largely unknown space while evading detection by Clan forces. And should they encounter the enemy, there's also a need to come up with the rules of engagement for possible prisoners. After all, they're going to be a long way from home without any real support and hardly enough supplies to support unnecessary human baggage in their trip to Huntress.

What I Liked: The book is somewhat unique in featuring a rarity in the Battletech universe: space combat. For the most part jumpships have been strictly used as transports with the Inner Sphere houses sworn to avoid harming the precious ships in their squabbles because the technology needed to keep them alive had largely been lost. And thus the greater focus has always been on on the ground mech combat and at most some diversions to aerospace fighters or other supporting forces. This book features a good number of actual WarShips with the task force needing to push hard to get to Huntress.

Beyond that, the book shines when it really tries to examine the trickier parts of this mission and how they will maintain their humanity as part of a mission to pretty much annihilate one of the Clans with respect to their ability to wage war. And when the journey alone is said to take the better part of a year, there are a lot of hard decisions that need to be made along the way for the good of the mission. It's not quite Star Trek level philosophical conflict, but it's still some major stuff.

What Could Have Been Better: The book tried to focus on different aspects of the task force but largely calling attention to elements that mattered more to the latter parts. It was some rather heavy-handed foreshadowing along with a some really boring interludes that didn't help the greater story. For example, we had a lot more focus on some of the DEST teams, the Eridani Light Horse and a few others but skipped over the Knights of the Inner Sphere (except in a few heated meetings) or even the Northwind Highlanders with their big noise about their secret Black Watch Company.

And the way the book ended was just lazy. I think we all knew that it was going to happen and the way that particular chapter was handled was overly melodramatic and all the more stressed what was going to happen. And despite the involvement of some infamous assassins best remembered for their "calling card" left at the scenes of their murders, we had something that felt surprising, underwhelming and almost insulting to the victim. This could have gone so much better.

TL;DR: Battletech: The Hunters is a decent little romp that you celebrate for the WarShip combat but not much else. It's not the best written piece and quite the trudge to get through at times only to end with an annoying cliffhanger. And thus the book only gets 3 space maneuvers as part of the rare combat in this book out of a possible 5.

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