Michael Stackpole is the only reason I have any interest in Battletech’s fiction. Heck, he’s practically the only reason I know the fiction even exists. And having finished his first Battletech work, the Warrior trilogy (En Garde, Riposte, Coupe), I can say that Mr. Stackpole has not failed me.
Thursday, September 28, 2023
Battletech + Stackpole = beach read with giant mech
Intellectual Properties are always this weird potluck of quality, even though I am pretty sure most of the media in the world falls into that category. And gaming fiction in particular can really be all over the place, even different works from the same company.
And while I am aware there have been successful cartoons about Battletech, I still wouldn’t think it lends itself to novels. As a tactical level war game, the focus is on fighting, not storytelling. (Yes. I know I love WH40K fiction and the original game is just about beating each other up too)
Stackpole makes the Warrior trilogy work by not writing about a game with giant robots. Instead, he wrote a political thriller that just happens to have giant robots in it.
Honestly, for all intents and purposes, the series is a summer beach read. It’s not driven by character or theme but by plot. The books aren’t deep and nor are they trying to be. They focus on being entertaining and telling an engaging story. And that is something Stackpole pulls off.
The books aren’t without their flaws. By virtue of having to work with the setting lore, there are some plot elements that don’t contribute to the larger narrative and really go nowhere. And you can figure out some of the major plot twists just by who Stackpole concentrates on as major characters.
But those are flaws that come as part of the package, particularly the second one. Stackpole made telling a good story his priority and it shows. These were some of his earliest fiction but the promise is already there.
The Warrior trilogy isn’t high art. It’s airport reading. But they aren’t just airport reading. They are the kind of books you are happy to find before a six-hour flight.