This month, I read a straight-forward military Science Fiction novel: Warriors of the Four Worlds by Ronald T. Jones. I enjoy this genre. I just lean back and read about heroes spreading bullets and American-style liberty across the known universe. I’m usually against the “American-style” portion of these novels, but rest easy, there’s no flag-waving in this particular book. These stories can just be a violent romp through a hail of bullets and a spray of alien guts. Warriors of the Four Worlds delivers in the “hail of bullets” category and while it doesn’t have much philosophical weight to it, it does leave you with something to think about without too much of the taste of colonialism left behind.
It opens into the action immediately.
“I soaked in the grim scene, tallying the numbers of dead Vingin in my mind. Reverse thrusts kicked in, bringing about the drop-pod’s near instantaneous deceleration. High gear inertials prevented that deceleration from turning me, and the 100 Tac-Assault Troopers on-board, into a bloody stew.”
Our hero is Lev Gorlin. In Chapter 2, we’re told he has dark brown complexion, but outside of that initial description, his ethnicity doesn’t really come up. This is the future – there’s no racism, sex is a mutually enjoyed casual pastime, and there are more mind altering drugs to be had than the author bothers to name. This lack of specificity has an interesting side effect. In most fiction, speculative or not, there’s an assumption of Whiteness – if a character isn’t specifically described as something else readers (of all races) will assume that the character is White. This is one of the many reasons why fiction with diverse casts is so important, it disrupts the normalcy of an all-White world. Now, in Warriors, because the main character, Lev, and the two female main characters, Vinia (his sister) and Tione (his lover), are all described as Black, I found myself assuming everyone else in the story was too. Whatever the author intended, all the space ships and planets in my mind are filled with Black people of all shades and sizes, happily enacting the Afro-Future.
This is Lev Gorlin’s crew, but with more guns.
Well, not happily, considering the beating that humanity takes in this novel. The plot centers around war, vengeance, rage, and retaliation, with Lev being pulled from one war to the next without really understanding who’s pulling his strings until too late. He’s joined by Kelte, his faithful wingman, his sister Vinia who fills the role of intelligence agent/mastermind, and Tione, who has one of those cool military codenames: Dagger One. She’s an infiltration specialist with her own vengeance to work out on the hordes of alien bad guys. While I do wish that fewer of Tione’s descriptions involved her appearance (the fact that she’s gorgeous is mentioned every time she enters a scene), she can hold her own on the battlefield and in the situation room so that sets this book up well in the gender equity department.
For the military Sci-Fi fan, this book has plenty of guns and aliens, but don’t expect much in the way of gritty technical details. There’s plenty of futuristic stuff, but no description of how/why any of it works. I’d fit Warriors into the comfortable middle of military Sci-Fi – not targeted at the serious space marine who wants an electron-by-electron description of how the cloaking technology works, but also more focused on tactics and weaponry than a peace-time space opera might be. The aliens are, at first glance, flat archetypes. There’s the violent race, the intellectual race, and the barbarian race. It is only at the last twist of the plot that those stereotypes fall away, leaving me wishing the author had given me some more details throughout about what’s going on behind the scenes on those other planets.
Warriors of the Four Worlds is a quick read, easy to pick up and put down and pick up again. Unfortunately, this was the only full-length novel I could find by Ronald Jones. I’d gladly pick up another book in this universe, the continuing adventures of the rag-tag Afro-Future fleet, looking for a planet to cleanse of aliens, where they can set up a chill, pro-sex, pro-drugs, and pro-hip-hop civilization.
Like Wakanda in SPACE!