eyeofstorm One of the great boons to cheap reading matter are the Baen freebie CDs. These promotional CDs are bound into first-edition first-printing hardcovers of select Baen books, or given out at industry meetings and conventions, and contain literally dozens of Baen e-books each.

And best of all, they come with a permissive license that allows free distribution of the CD and its contents, meaning that Joe Buckley at The Fifth Imperium is permitted to host them all for free browsing and downloading.

There is sufficient free reading here to keep anyone occupied for weeks, but today I’m going to focus on one particular series: the “Legacy of the Aldenata” series (also commonly called “The Posleen War”) by John Ringo and various co-authors. This series is currently 12 books long, and the first 11 can be found as e-books in multiple formats on Baen CD #18.

The premise of the series is that, in the year 2001, aliens get in contact with Earth’s government to let us know something nasty is coming: a ravening horde of voracious, rapidly-breeding reptilian creatures called the Posleen, who are expanding from planet to planet, eating all organic life that they find, then moving on.

The Posleen are heading in the direction of a cluster of populated planets belonging to a coalition of allied galactic races—of which Earth is an as-yet-unknowing part. These races have one particular problem in common: an overwhelmingly pacifistic nature (natural in some cases, enforced by ancient genetic engineering in others). It turns out that of all the races populating our part of the galaxy, only humans have the ability to do any actual fighting.

So the coalition of aliens—the master craftsmen Indowy, the scientific Tchpht, the manipulating scheming Darhel, and the mysterious Himmit—forge an agreement with mankind: they will provide us with technology and weapons centuries beyond our current understanding, and help us to defend our homeworld. In return, we put a fighting force together and go out to kick the Posleen off of their worlds. Sounds pretty good so far, doesn’t it?

But things are not always as they seem.

Except for a couple of side novels, the series follows the adventures of Mike O’Neal and his family. O’Neal, a science fiction writer and military veteran, gets pulled into events early on when he is recalled to active duty to help put together the infantry response to the Posleen onslaught.

O’Neal’s wife is recalled to duty as well—and so is just about every other military veteran, including veterans of Vietnam, Korea, World War II, and even the few remaining living veterans of World War I. (The aliens’ technology includes a de-aging rejuvenation process.) As the Posleen grow ever closer, and the situation grows more tense, it becomes clear that there are things the Darhel are not saying—but the full extent of their treachery only becomes apparent when the Posleen arrive.

After the first four books, covering the run-up to the invasion and its arrival and aftereffects, the series jumps forty years in the future to focus on Mike’s daughter Cally, now an assassin for a secret guerilla organization dedicated to countering the Darhel. Over the course of the next ten years, she becomes involved in interstellar intrigues as the political situation teeters precariously.

Then a new threat appears on the horizon that changes everything…

Meanwhile, there are a couple of other side novels, covering the events of the Posleen invasion in different parts of the world, such as Panama and Germany. The novel about Germany, Watch on the Rhine, caused a bit of controversy, given that it makes heroes of a group of rejuvenated German World War II veterans from the SS.

The most recent novel, The Tuloriad, is not available free yet, but can be bought from Webscriptions for $6. It tells the story of a group of Posleen who escape the fighting on earth and go on a quest to find a new way of life for themselves—and of a group of humans who seek them out to bring them the Gospel.

For those role-playing gamers in the audience, there is also a D20 SRD compatible Posleen role-playing game, in .DOC form, on Baen CD #2 (along with an e-book of Posleen fanfic). The document covers events in the first four books only. It was supposed to be revised and reissued commercially for compatibility with the D20 Traveller RPG, but this somehow never ended up happening.

On the whole, I found this series to be well-written and exciting. Ringo is himself a military veteran, so is able to bring a verisimilitude to his writing that many other milSF writers lack. He also has a knack for humanizing his characters (if you can say that about alien characters), making his readers care about people on both sides of the battle.

Of course, there is a downside to that. People die in Ringo’s books. Lots of people. (Five billion people, during the Posleen invasion.) People who don’t deserve it. People you’ve grown to care about over the course of the last few pages, few hundred pages, or few books. They die because of stupid mistakes, because of treachery, or to buy time so that others can escape. If you can’t handle that, this series might not be for you.

Something else that might be hard for some readers to swallow is the politics. Ringo and his collaborators are firmly right of center, and sometimes (or a lot of times) the politics bleed through into his books. Advocates of liberal causes are often presented as idiots, or sometimes even as alien collaborators. But that’s par for the course in any SF written by someone with a political bent.

And needless to say, there’s a good deal of sex, violence, and harsh language involved. Not as much or as twisted as some of Ringo’s books, but about the usual level one might expect for a series involving ravening aliens out to eat humanity, and the class of men who sign up to fight them back. Probably not something to read aloud to the kids at bedtime.

But it’s not all blood and guts. There are some humorous, even downright hilarious elements found in these books, balancing out the somber blood and guts moments. Running through some of the earlier books is a significant thread of reference to the webcomic Sluggy Freelance, which Ringo became an unabashed fan of.

For instance, a giant mobile artillery piece in the first four books is named “Bun-Bun” by its crew of Sluggy fans, and the Sluggy character “Riff” (or, rather, the real-life person Riff was based on) is tuckerized into Hell’s Faire. The book even features a section of selected Sluggy comics, including some original strips set in the Aldenata universe. Definitely a must-read for any Sluggy Freelance fan.

This might be a little “too cute” for some people, but it suits me just fine!

One slight annoyance, however, was that in some of the later books, continuity gets a bit sloppy. There’s an event that is presented in Yellow Eyes and Eye of the Storm as happening around 2060, but when it is covered in The Tuloriad it is stated to happen in 2013—except one of the characters refers to other events happening around 2060 during it. Apparently Ringo and his co-author Tom Kratman decided to move the event back in time after the fact—but couldn’t do anything about the two books that already had been written, and forgot to fix everything in the one they were writing.

A bigger annoyance is that, just when things start getting really exciting, it turns out the next book in the series is nowhere on the horizon, so probably won’t come out until at least 2011.

Anyway, if you’re looking for an exciting, action-packed military SF adventure series that will give you at least several days of good reading time, mostly for free, check out the Legacy of the Aldenata. It’s worth reading.


  1. The Aldenata books are good but I generally prefer to read series back-to-back-to-back and I overloaded on grim-n-gritty after the fourth volume. 😉

    Individually, and read months apart, they’re fun reads, though.

    But I still prefer his LOOKING GLASS WAR/VORPAL BLADE stories. Really good mix of dead serious action adventure with whimsy and humor. With some delighful characters not generally found in Space Opera; Miriam Moon the hyper-kinetic super-genius with ADHD and her cat Tiny are among my favorites. And you’ve gotta love a story that takes intrepid space explorers into the dreaded…anime zone… 😉

  2. Avoid the books co-authored with Kratman. The Posleen books by Ringo alone are tolerable enough, and the Cally’s War side-series is OK, but the Kratman books (like everything Kratman does) are one sided right wing polemics (more accurately, they’re screeds). _Watch on the Rhine_ was written–by the authors’ own admission–simply as a rehabilitation of the Waffen SS.

    Kratman’s influence is pervasive and bad. The characters are mere caricatures, and dishonest ones at that. Anyone with a non-Right opinion are portrayed as at best closet conservatives just trying to get ahead in an unfriendly political arena (the German Chancellor), but more often are cast as insurvivably stupid (e.g., the French socialist woman) or simply unapologetic traitors to the human race (the German “Greens”).

    I don’t expect authors to abandon their own opinions when writing. I do, however, expect them to write about believable people–and while Ringo can do this at his best, Kratman is utterly incapable of it.

    • This is definitely a “your mileage may vary” thing. Some of my favorite books in the series, such as Yellow Eyes and The Tuloriad, were co-written with Kratman. (I just really really like Daisy Mae and Sally.)

      Even Watch on the Rhine wasn’t the awful thing that I expected it to be. If you’re going to write a story which looks at whether men who worked for an evil regime can be redeemed (which is a theme I do enjoy reading about), there just aren’t many regimes more infamously evil than Nazi Germany. And I found the idea of having to choose between the lesser of two evils (rehabilitate the SS or get eaten by the Posleen) pretty compelling.

  3. And, that, Cerebus, is why you don’t have a clue.

    Perhaps if you ever actually READ “Watch”, you might understand what’s going on…

    First of all, the supposedly “insurvivably stupid French woman” TOUGHENS UP AND SURVIVES, you twit. Thank you for showing you’ve probably not read more than someone else’s review.

    It’s a bit of a spoiler, but there’s really only 3 old SS characters in the book – the General (who shows only a desire for his men to atone for their past crimes, and regain some semblance of honor), the truly disgusting “true believer” and the one character most closely followed in the book – who finally takes out the trash, avenges his late wife for what the beast had done to her, and as the Posleen are coming for him, is is reciting the “Shema Yisrael”, having converted to Judaism while fighting for Israel as a mercenary (where he met his wife, and found purpose in his life).

    All the “new SS” in the group were specifically NOT nazis, and if anything, were put in the group to be toughened up to fight, and die, in a manner that frankly, they couldn’t have gotten from the current German military – where you can’t wear your uniform off base, for crying out loud!

    And, the Greens ARE traitors to humanity, even in the real world. The Green party (established fact!) started out as a front for the KGB & Stasi, manipulating the lunatic fringe of the environmentalist movement to try to sabotage West Germany’s commercial & military infrastructure through bogus protests, for supposed “environmental” reasons, while they wouldn’t even dare mention anything bad about the Russians and the DDR doing 100 times worse environmental damage on the other side of the border fence. There’s a reason Greens are called “Watermelons”, even by typical left-leaning environment groups (let alone the right) – they are too obviously Communists masquerading as environmentalists, surrounding themselves with the easily duped who don’t even know what they are really protesting…

    Oh, and while you’re at it, learn to spell “CERBERUS”….

  4. 1). I have read _Watch_. It was _Yellow Eyes_ I couldn’t stomach any more.

    2). Yes, she does. There’s another way of looking at that event, however. Specifically, she’s redeemed (and allowed to survive) because she adopts the politics of the author, abandoning her own.

    3) Your intensely personal take on my comments, which were offered as literary commentary (in summary, that I prefer the fiction I read to be more honest to the characters and not create transparently political strawmen), coupled with your personal attacks, is both unwarranted and disproportionate. If *you* like to read screeds, be my guest, I don’t personally give a damn. But Kratman, as a fiction writer, sucks because he’s unable to separate his personal politics from those of his creations.

    — C

  5. What I find most amusing about the whole Military fiction = right wing extremism criticsm is that they are, for the most part, griping about the stories being *accurate*.

    Societies in the grip of life and death, survival struggles have historically turned “extreme right”. Any fair reading of WWII era America will show just how close to outright fascism the country came. (To say nothing of the Lincoln presidency.)

    Liberal values of tolerance and respect for opponents are peacetime values and anybody that that doesn’t buy into the premise that there is no meaningful compromise possible with somebody (Nazi’s, islamist terrorists, mongol hordes, etc) intent on blowing your brains out at all costs probably shouldn’t be reading military texts, fiction or non-fiction.

    For an interesting culture-clash exercise, between 21st century and 20th century America, it might be worth looking at John Birmingham’s AXIS OF TIME series. It takes its time getting started but the story is well worth it.

  6. Where the hell did this become a discussion of the putative political accuracy of the story?

    I pointed out that Kratman is incapable of creating believable characters of any political stripe but his own. I blame Kratman and not Ringo because it’s not a problem evident in Ringo’s solo books *in the same series.*

    This has fuck-all to do with the nature of the political opinions, and everything to do with Kratman’s skill and ability as a writer. If y’all can’t separate literary criticism from political criticism then there’s nothing more to discuss and Chris should simply lock out further comments.

  7. You know, the “Oh John Ringo No” link has something interesting to say about this very situation:

    The various types of ideological fiction also differ in how they treat the loyal opposition — by which I mean, the people who disagree but are nominally on the same team. In conservative ideological fiction, the loyal opposition is steamrolled; they’re there, but are defeated or ignored by Our Heroes, who are of course Faithful and Right (pretty much any Tom Clancy novel; 24).

    In liberal ideological fiction, the loyal opposition is defeated and becomes the subject of public opprobium, while Our Heroes are admired for being Faithful and Right (as in TRANSMETROPOLITAN, say, or my beloved BABYLON 5, or to a lesser degree in SERENITY, or half of John Grisham’s novels, or… incidentally, could I just request that if any of my liberal friends decide to write a political intrigue, would you please not foist yet another goddamned haircut of Watergate or Murrow vs. McCarthy on the world? BECAUSE I HAVE FUCKING SEEN IT).

    In Libertarian ideological fiction, there generally *is* no loyal opposition; Our Heroes are Faithful and Right and those who disagree with them are either misinformed (and over the course of the novel are educated to become Faithful and Right) or outright evil. (Also, Libertarian authors are, for the most part, constitutionally incapable of lecturing an audience on merely one political question; they want to convince you on all of them, and all at once.)

    (The writer whose ideological novels have done the best job of portraying honest but implacable disagreement, in my view, is Allen Drury. His ADVISE AND CONSENT series makes for a fascinating study of ideological fiction in its own right. Another day.)

  8. I used to think I could read teleread.com at work, but I will have to reconsider when people get so overheated about political ideology, they start dropping the f-bomb and quoting things with it embedded.

    I disagree with Felix about survival struggles causing societies turning to the “extreme right”. I think they tend to totalitarian governments of the extreme left and extreme right.

  9. @Bruce, this is probably not the place to discuss it, but I wouldn’t mind an example of a society at war going ultra-liberal as a survival mechanism. The only examples I know of involve retrenching to the core traditions and values not adopting new ones. Know of a good book on the subject? (Preferably not from one of the Agency Model 5.)

    As for the bleepable stuff, for some reason the mere mention of military SF raises emotional levels at most otherwise-rational sites. Not sure why. Seen it at Mobileread, too.

    Not a subject for cold dispassionate analysis, I guess.

  10. j love the series it’s one of the best sf series j’ve read but j do have objections about the eliminating all other powers in the world and making us military supreme.The simple fact is that altough us is strong as an economic power it is generations behind the rusian red army and ringo eliminates the rusians out of hand?And china overrun in a month common.With over 1.2 bilion chinese china will have more then 200 milion soldiers and it definetly has almost the same amount of firepower taht us and russia have.He is eliminating the balkans and j’m willing to bet that on the balkans exept in bulgaria,romania and northern greece and parts of macedonia that are not hills and mountains the poslean would be destroyed out of hand.The balkan armies are one of the best infintry armies in the world and any military man should know that,As for germany aj agree that it is real that the germans are the strongest european nation and resurecting the ss is an exelent idea….

  11. the book series is ok for an easy reading but it has a lot of faults in the story line. The author’s view of USA as the only world super power is just crazy and funny. He makes that China falls in just one month. First of all with population of 1.6 billion people China can easy field an army that will dwarf the one invasion wave. 30% of the population goes as soldiers and that is roughly 500 million soldiers and Mr Ringo China is not that far behind us as major power in fact it’s almost as strong. Second Russia with the winter and the Red Army back the Russians would trash any invasion that landed in their mist. They would of course retreat to the east in the end. For france i have to agree but as for the Balkans and the saying that they will be only bits and pieces of survivors. Thonk again. The balkans are mostly mountains especualy former Yugoslavian countries. 20 years ago the SFRJ was the fourth power in the world with over 2000000 regular troops ten in the story line. And his best answer as for he strength of the army is simple. Why didn’t nato troops enter in serbia in 1999 becouse they would be slaughterd like pigs. With the rejuv therapy JNA will come back. And the republics would most certainly unite again. i think that the posties would get their arses kicked so bad that they would just live the balkans alone. The terrain is easyly defendable and with refugies arriving from eastern europe bulgaria and greece and from hungary romania there would be ample soldiers to fight. I think tha the posties may take vojvodina and nortern croatia anad maybe just maybe small parts of macedonia and kosovo but that is all. I”m writing a book abut the events on the balkans it should be published soon and i hink it will tell a good story about the Balkans in that war.

  12. I have been totally hooked on this series…In my mind it is classic science fiction. Exciting, entertaining and captivating and I look forward to another volume, I do not care about historical or scientific accuracy, I just want to enjoy a good read and am a little puzzled at anyone who cannot see it for what it is… a story.

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