Chapter By Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
Well, I’ve reviewed a couple issues of the Blackthorne comic, the few issues I have of the Dark Horse miniseries, the cartoon, and the gamebook based on the cartoon (that was for The Clutter Reports, my other site) so since I’ve only played the demo of one game this is the last of the media I have on the BattleTech franchise. It was through the show that I became interested in the stories of the franchise though not playing the game itself due to my having the wrong personality to take part in a game where I’m only one voice among many storytellers. (I think that’s why kids didn’t want to play any games involving playing a character with me. My storyteller instincts come up with a story and my brain was thinking of them more as actors in my story than fellow storytellers, which is not good for role-play.) I liked the show so that brought me to the game book (which I though was a guide to the show although I was aware of the game thanks to ads in my childhood comics, which I think I mentioned in the reveal).
Now we head for the prologue and first chapter of our seventeenth book in this review series. I think I enjoyed it when I first read it but we’ll see if that happens this time as well. What I’m hoping for going in is at least enough explanation of the story to benefit new readers who may be experiencing this universe for the first time. Yes, the show was popular and the game was created in the 1980s but that was a cartoon and a role-playing game, niche crowds compared to book readers. This also wasn’t Robert Thurston’s first BattleTech novel so he may forget every story is potentially someone’s first. The prologue and chapter one are a combined 12 pages, so this may be Tom Clancy’s Op Center all over again. The chapters also start in a similar fashion, with location and time instead of a proper chapter name. So let’s see how this goes before we’re done. Prepare for multiple chapter reviews, thus ruining the title of this article series again. Time to begin.
The book does open with a map of the “Inner Sphere Coreward Sector”. The areas controlled by each of the Clans is indicated but the planets are kind of small and thus so is the text identifying them. From there we go to the prologue, the only time we don’t get a location/time opening. It just goes right into the story. It’s also not a great starting chapter to anyone new to this franchise. Terms like “sibko” and “sibkin” can kind of be inferred to a general meaning, and it’s easy to tell a “falconer” is a trainer in this case, but that’s about it. The prologue introduces Joanna, no last name given. Through her dreams we learn that her falconer had all the makings of a Marine drill sergeant (Sgt. Hartman would love this guy) and that she had a friend named Aidan who was killed in some kind of battle. Joanna in the dream is trying to get something called a “bloodname” but we’re not really sure what that is. I haven’t watched the cartoon in years fully and I’m not sure either. So much for benefiting the new reader.
We do learn that Joanna is now a falconer herself for Clan Jade Falcon and she’s not happy about the new recruits coming to visit. Apparently the war we saw in the show (loosely based on the events in the various modules) has turned into a truce between the Inner Sphere and at least Jade Falcon if not the other Clans. If you know the games, comics, or show maybe you followed along. From there we jump to chapter 1.
Chapter 1: Western Training Zone; Pattersen, Sudeten; Jade Falcon Occupation Zone; 1 July, 3057
Well, it’s easier to follow along but you have to pay stronger attention than those of us who know Clans are essentially test tube babies formed from merging DNA (aka “trueborn”) while anyone born the old-fashioned way (“freeborn”) are looked down upon. We do learn that Joanna never earned her bloodname, falling short each time. We also know she is friends with two freeborn Mechwarriors while Joanna herself is a trueborn. Joanna’s rank is Star Captain and is friends with Horse, a Star Commander, and Diana, just ranked as “Mechwarrior”. A few more terms that have no explanation (the back of the book shows off a few Battlemechs but there’s no glossary for “quaiff” or “aff” or what “Star” means in this context). We also learn that the truce between the Inner Sphere and the Clans have been going on for fifteen years and there are “truce zones” on the planet they’re on, Sudeten. That’s the worldbuilding stuff and I imagine anyone new to the universe is at least partially lost at the moment. This is the 17th book in the novel series as well as the 17th book I’m reviewing.
On the character side the three are connected through a mutual friend, Aidan Pryde, the man from her dream that turned into a Mech during one of the melees to get into the tournament to earn a bloodname. Joanna was his falconer, Horse was his friend and learned to love reading for fun through him, and Diana is his biological daughter. She and Horse are good friends though in his head he admits she’s attractive but they’ve never “coupled”, which sounds like marriage but it’s actually just the honeymoon, if you catch my drift. Meanwhile new recruits are coming in and apparently Aidan is such a famous Mechwarrior that they kind of idolize him and also want nothing to do with their new instructor. I’m assuming this will play into the conflict for this story.
So knowing the franchise will be a big help but so far maybe you can follow along to at least get a feel for the place. Being able to understand context is a big help but this is already showing that it was made for franchise fans and not newcomers. That’s kind of a shame but based on that track do we still have a good story? Join me next time for the next chapter or set of chapters in this book.