I’ve been reading Mr. Larson for a while now & the one thing I have to state is that I’m really glad I haven’t given up on him.  Some of his earlier books were a bit hard to get through and while they had elements that were interesting they didn’t necessarily live up to the promise – this was probably most evident in Swarm (reviewed here) as it started out so well, but just got gradually more and more annoying and tiresome.  The Undying Mercenaries series though seems to be a showing of his true potential and as long as he doesn’t flog a dead horse past its expiration date, I have really high hopes for it!

In a similar vein to the Legion series’ of books – Book 1 Marine Cadet (by Tim C Taylor) reviewed here – Earth has been contacted by the “Galactics” and given an ultimatum if they want to stay alive.  In Legion, Earth had to give up millions of its own children to become fodder in the Galactics wars and battles.  Here it’s slightly different.  Every planet has to provide at least one trade good that is unique to their world, something that cannot be copied or stolen by another world in that sector.  The solution to this request was similar … Earth was going to be supplying mercenaries.  Soldiers that the other planets could use in their own internal struggles at a price.

Sad as it is, the theme seems to be fairly constant amongst SciFi authors that one of the things Humans do best is fight.  This is something I remember reading for decades in books like The Man Kzin Wars and others of a similar vein.  While I’d like to believe that we can offer more, I can understand this assumption, especially if we are the ones being contacted!  One would rightly assume that the people doing the contacting have more available to them in terms of technology and knowledge than we do! However, I think you’d agree that humanity as a group being only suitable for soldiers is somewhat depressing!

Anyways, with the above being said, this is actually a very engaging and enjoyable story.  Similar to pulp SciFi it still has a hard and gritty realism to it that is quite enthralling.  Jame McGill is our primary protagonist although there are quite a few other characters that you’ll grow to know throughout the book also – Carlos, Natasha, Graves and Harris to name but a few – and unlike other series of a similar nature, you really can invest yourself in these characters as Humanity made a very smart purchase with its initial fund of Galactic Credits.  See the reason this series is called – Undying Mercenaries – is because they initially purchased a machine that can literally recreate a copy of someone.  These are not clones but are rather new bodies with all of the memories and abilities of the originals.  Restricted (by Galactic Law) to a single copy at a time, the mercenaries are able to constantly replenish their forces and while they may at times get wiped out, they tend to never lose!

Overall the weapons and technology at play in this series are believable and realistic and make sense.  While the Galactic Empire possess faster that light travel, that is written more as a “black box” without too much detail of wormholes or anything of the like.  Guns are guns and armor is armor.  The biggest technological marvel at play in the book is the ability of the mercenaries to return from the dead and that is given just the right amount of detail.

Steel World tells the story of James’ first missions as a mercenary and his acceptance into Legion Varus.  Exposed to a planet ruled by Dinosaurs is nothing if not intimidating and it was really refreshing to see that “modern” technology was not automatically superior to mass.  While the eventual outcome was never really in doubt, some of the twists and turns along the way were quite interesting and really well written.  You could almost feel the Dino’s rushing the wall in preparation of a new tasty mercenary snack! As the story progresses you can definitely see James grow into a more interesting character and change from a callow youth into a man.  While he’s still a bit of a womanizer, it’s obvious that he actually cares about the people he’s around and tries to always do the best he can for them.

As a recent member of Kindle Unlimited – by the way and completely unrelated do you feel that Canadian’s and for that matter anyone not from the US gets gypped by Amazon?  I mean Amazon Prime is actually quite cool … in the States.  There you get Video (similar to Netflix but probably not as good) and unlimited music streaming + unlimited photo storage + free two day shipping + other things … in Canada you get unlimited photo storage and free two day shipping … big whoop! – oh well, there are other positives to living in Canada but I guess we’re never going to get our electronics and gadgets as cheaply or as quickly as they do in the States.

As a bit of a … well lets be honest as a big … geek this is somewhat depressing.  In addition as a huge reader this is even more disappointing as Amazon Prime in the US has access to over 500,000 free ebooks … this isn’t even available on Amazon Prime in Canada!  What is available in Canada is something called Kindle Unlimited and while at first glance it seems somewhat similar – I think they offer 250,000 ebooks – there are only 50,000 that are related to SciFi and Fantasy which is in my very biased opinion a crime! 🙂

What you might not realize until you start really using it is the list of authors available seems to be restricted to either self published authors or ones that are fairly new to the genre or writing in general.  There are obviously exceptions to this – I found some good books by Arthur C. Clarke and some other older grandmasters but finding some of the newer books by authors like David Weber and John Ringo … well you’re out of luck!

Kindle Unlimited seems to be a grand experiment really as while its definitely a good way of introducing newer authors to readers, the restrictions remove some of the advantages and make me question the decision and cost of a $10/mo price point.  I mean if I could read the people and books I wanted to read, this would absolutely make sense to me.  While I realize that authors need to make money and get rewarded for their imagination, I’ve never been able to justify the fact that there is little to no difference in cost between ebooks and paperback books.  It just doesn’t make sense and considering the volume of books I’m able to go through – well simply put I couldn’t afford the habit!

So Kindle Unlimited at the $10/mo price point for up to 10 books – like I said that actually works.  It would be better if it was included in Prime versus being a separate product as now even if I wanted to take advantage of the pathetic benefits of Amazon Prime in Canada I wouldn’t want to spend another $10/mo for that also, but that’s just another gripe.  However if you can’t even get the books you want then it probably doesn’t make any sense.

A bit of a pity really as I’ve found a couple of good authors that I’d like to continue following – so in that respect its worked – but I’ve also had to pay $$$ for some others that simply weren’t available and this is where it fell down for me.  If they roll this out to include more titles and authors perhaps this will work, but right now Kindle Unlimited feels to me like the exact opposite – Kindle Limited!