Harry’s Book Review: Citizens (Sci-Fi Anthology)

Authors: Multiple. Edited by John Ringo and Brian M. Thomsen
Copyright Date: 2010
Publisher: Baen Publishing Enterprises
ISBN: 978-1-4391-3347-7 (also 978-1439134603–mass market paperback)
Suitable for children? Not young ones. Teens depending on maturity. (Parental screening recommended.)

Citizens is a collection of fifteen military science fiction short stories. From a prepper’s perspective these stories are not going to provide in depth detail for making provision for an uncertain future, but they do illustrate the mentality required to survive, or at least succeed, in combat.

It should probably be noted that in several of these stories success does not equate with survival. There are heroes in these stories who give their lives so that others can survive. Some of these stories, and particularly “The Long Watch” by Robert Heinlein, are very powerful. Even several weeks after reading it my throat still tightens up thinking about the choices Johnny Dahlquist made
and the consequences he accepted.

It should also be noted that other stories are downright funny. “Allamagoosa” by Eric Frank Russell is a largely humorous jab at the bureaucratic side of a military organization. “The Question” by Patrick A. Vanner, while largely dealing with the delicate matter of introductory contact and negotiation with a completely foreign culture, ends on a humorous note due to the naiveté of a

What makes this book most worthwhile is the philosophical side. These are thought provoking stories about how decisions are made and how one life may be valued in comparison to another. These are stories in which responsibility has a very tangible meaning and consequences reverberate through entire continents. These are stories for a warrior to ponder, and to the extent that a prepper anticipates the role of a warrior in their future this book has merit.

Given that this is science fiction, most of the stories involve factors such as space travel, alien life forms, artificial intelligence, genetically modified hominids and other such dreams for the future. However, those details do not detract from the value of the philosophical issues which arise. The question of the value of a genetically modified hominid is very much parallel to the historical treatment of minorities, lower classes and slaves.

For one who would survive in an uncertain future these stories provide examples of adapting to situations in order to stay alive. Both “Exploration Team” by Murray Leinster and “Neither Sleet, Nor Snow, Nor Alien Invasion…” by Dave Freer provide clear contrasts of those who will adapt and those who would not. Both of those stories involve creative measures for coping with deadly alien species. For one who would step back for the sake of perspective, the issues involved are comparable to different methods of warfare which have evolved over the centuries and over different continents.

For the most part these stories are free from profanity and sexuality. There are no graphic sex scenes, but there are references made in a couple of the stories. A parent wishing to screen this collection should take a look at “Under the Hammer” by David Drake as that one is the roughest one in the lot. It is still substantially better than much of what is published anymore, but it
does have some expletives, references to deviant sexuality (worth noting that the protagonist is repulsed) and graphic deaths.

Overall this is a book for the guys, and probably best suited for a young man considering enlisting.

[JWR Adds: It is noteworthy that one of the short stories included in the anthology, “The Price” was penned by SurvivalBlog’s own Editor at Large, Michael Z. Williamson.]