Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sam Schall's Vengeance from Ashes

(This is part two of my three, or possibly four, part Memorial Day celebration in which I review works of Military Science Fiction that I can find a way of justifying as being related to the US Military.)

They stripped her of her career, but they could have gotten away with that. They locked her up, but she survived it and could have gotten over it. They took away her rights and her dignity but the vengeance she seeks is not for herself. They messed with her people and that, my friends, was inexcusable. Now she's out for payback and it's going to get ugly.Who is she? She is Captain Ashlyn Shaw, this is Vengeance from Ashes and I assure you that you have someone you'd rather mess with.

Shaw was the leader of an elite unit of Marines known as the Devil Dogs. Leadership, both military and civilian sold her and her people out. The ones that survived are imprisoned, stripped of rank and status. Even their Devil Dog tattoos have been removed, along with large portions of their skin. Their families were persecuted. Ms Shaw is among the unhappiest of campers and she has damn good reason to be.

What follows this horrifying beginning is a story of anger carefully controlled because releasing it would be ruinous and Shaw knows it. She has to find a way to get her people out of prison and back into the service. She has to find a way to get herself back into fighting trim, both physically and mentally. She also has to learn to trust again. It's not always easy for Shaw to tell who had her back and who did not. She can't be sure who, if anyone, to trust. Even when things go well the scars of her imprisonment remain. She is, in short, a well-written and thoroughly entertaining character. I once had a conversation with someone who claimed there were no strong female characters in SF/F. Vengeance from Ashes had not been published yet. That's too bad. I would've loved a chance to whack someone over the head with it at that point.

Schall does a good job of balancing this book out. There are several scenes of asskickery and derring-do but there is also plenty of time spent on character development. Shaw is a complicated woman who has been through a lot. It takes her time to become used to being on the outside once again. VfA is a thriller as well. There are times when a straight ahead charge won't work and trickery has to be employed. Shaw has enemies still remaining in power and not everyone is best friends with the people who freed her either. This is a much deeper work with more twists than I had anticipated it to be. A book that I had initially figured as a straight up kill-'em-all type turned out to have more turns than a trip down a mountain road.

The action in the book is relentless. If there's not a military operation going on, there's political intrigue. If there's no political intrigue there's personal tension. Things just don't let up. I couldn't put the thing down until I was done. The first time I read this the sequel wasn't out yet and I wanted to read it now, now, now. Oh well. It didn't matter what I wanted because I was waiting anyway.

There is only one thing about this book that I didn't like and I have to admit that it makes me a bit crazy. Schall picked the nickname Devil Dogs as the designation for his Marine Specwar unit. Sorry, but I've got a history degree and that kind of thing makes me twitch. The nickname Devil Dogs was given to the United State Marine Corps at Belleau Wood by the Germans they were fighting. The Germans were convince that no human could shoot that well. The Marines were picking them off at seven to eight hundred yards with aimed rifle fire. I know I'm interfering with authorial fiat but I can't get over the simple fact that Schall took the name Devil Dogs away from the entire Corps and gave it to one elite unit. In spite of that, it's still a good book though.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 rifle rounds

Vengeance from Ashes
Sam Schall
Hunter's Moon Press, 2014

Vengeance from Ashes can be purchased here:

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