Canby’s Legion by Bill Baldwin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
This has to be one of the most stupid books, if not THE most stupid book, I have ever read! Yet call me stupid, because I read the whole thing. And I have stopped reading dozens of books, dozens, even hundreds of pages, through because they were too stupid to continue, so I’m not sure why I continued reading this one even though I knew it was unbelievably bad. I guess parts of it, perhaps about 10%, were intriguing enough to make me want to find out what happened at the end. Isn’t that sad? I can’t believe I let the author suck me in that much, just by a mere 10% of the book. It was so bad, and I still read it. That says something sad about me.
A gigantic war was fought 10 years ago between Earth, the Imperials, and the Volpato Confederation, whom Earth crushed. Some of the “bad” Kirskians got away in the end, led by one Kobir, and they became mercenaries. Meanwhile, things on Earth became unbelievably corrupt and degenerate and society disintegrated. The military was largely disbanded and society was divided up between Nobles, Politicians, Merchants, vets drawing stipends and barely making it, citizens holding down jobs that barely paid enough to live on, living in public housing and eating in soup kitchens, and those on the Dole, barely alive, many dying on the streets. The Nobles and the Politicians ran things. The fleet was largely retired since there was peace in the galaxy. Gordan Canby, hero of the war, is a retired starship commander living on his stipend, barely making it, and wishing he could make it out into space again, he and his ex-colleagues. This is where the story begins.
The book is bad, in part, because the characters are such incredible stereotypes, they are virtually cartoons. The Minister of the Admiralty, David Lotember, in charge of the fleet, HATES the vets with a passion unsurpassed, for no good reason. He despises them and wants to rid the remaining military of the remaining vets, so institutes a purge, replacing all of the veteran officers with newly trained, highly educated, nobly born and bred, well off sons and daughters of Nobles and Politicians to command the new starships. They go off into space in search of pirates and promptly get their asses handed to them, firstly by the Kirskians. They look like incompetent fools. Why? Hard to know, other than they have NO experience to fall back on. Dolts! Lotember is so stark raving mad that when he gets angry, which is just about every page he appears on, or frustrated or humiliated or suffers any negative emotion or experience, he immediately rapes a subordinate and we get to read through the beginnings of this, over and over and over again. So too, Sadir, First Earl of Renaldo, Lotember’s boss, an incredibly obese glutton with a tremendous appetite for bisexual escapades with anyone who moves in private or public situations, who eats constantly, even while defecating, which we get to enjoy viewing while reading this book, and involves himself in orgies. Since he’s also a slaver and Kobir finds out, Kobir blackmails him and Renaldo wants him dead, so he insists Lotember send his fleet out after him and that accomplishes nothing. When Rendaldo gets angry or upset, he too has to rape the person nearest him. Oh joy! Really nice reading, I’ve got to say. This is so over the top, it’s not even funny. And don’t even get me started on the emperor, who literally reclines eating grapes with servants. Stereotype much, Baldwin?
Meanwhile, Canby is talked into cashing in his stipend and buying four old, but good, warships and talking the old gang into becoming mercenaries with him. Anything is better than the shit they have to put up with with the political system on Earth and they have to get back out into space. They get a politic supporter, secretly, a man running for prime minister, who donates funds and supplies for the cause. However, there’s something about him and it’s rather easy to figure out early on, just as it’s pretty easy to figure out pretty much everything in this book early on. For instance, Canby, the protagonist/hero is a dunce. He has a great ex-military woman who joins his “Legion,” and suggests they no longer remain an “item,” even though they’re still interested, just to avoid bad appearances. So he becomes involved with a mysterious hottie down on her luck, living with her boy, in the slums in DC. She works a day job and a night job but sometimes finds the time to go out with him. She’s fairly secretive about her work, but eventually opens up and their relationship becomes romantic and he thinks he falls in love. Anyone with a brain can figure out early on she’s a hooker, but he’s too damn stupid to even consider that. When he goes to DC without her knowing it in advance and sees her on a street corner with some guy in a limo and follows them to a seedy motel, where he gets a viewing key and can literally see them having sex, he goes outside and throws up and flees. Um, reality check? Geez, man, wake up!
Finally, they are ready to go, do their first job well, get some PR, start doing some other jobs, and then the biggie. His STILL-girlfriend’s Noble client – Renaldo – wants to hire Canby to kill Kobir and the Kirskians, but wants to do so anonymously through Cynthia. She talks Canby into it, but Renaldo also talks her into getting his operational plans from him, which he very stupidly gives her – idiot much? Renaldo immediately goes to Lotember and tells him that mercenaries are going to be destroying these other mercenaries here and there on this date and the fleet needs to go attack the winning mercenaries when they have won to eliminate them. The attack occurs, the fleet shows up and attacks both prematurely because they are stupid children fresh out of college with no experience, and Canby and the Kirskians band together to attack the Imperials and destroy some of their battlecruisers and send them fleeing. They eventually attack Renaldo’s residence and steal his greatest and most priceless treasure, which they sell to the emperor through a fence for three times what Renaldo paid for it and it makes them all insanely rich. Yay. Rah. Big whoop. Cynthia is actually made Minister of the Admiralty for betraying Camby to Renaldo three times, because he is so trusting and so unbelievably stupid when anyone with a brain can see what’s going to happen. Even Kobir can see it. In fact, Kobir is the smartest one in the book, the “bad” barbarian.
The Kirskians, the bad guys, are the most polite, tightly run unit, effective, moral, decent group of mercenaries/people in the book. Canby, a fucking idiot, and the Legion come in second. They’ve got good hearts, at least. The Earth’s leaders are corrupt and depraved unlike anything the world has ever seen. The military is good, at least as far as the vets go. The new military being recruited out of college, is comprised of inexperienced idiots. The rest of the civilians are simply sheep to be ignored. The lesson here is that the author is obviously pro-military, except when it comes to service academies or ROTC programs, very anti-politician, anti-elitism, very right wing, regards regular civilians as irrelevant people to be ignored, military vets are the only intelligent people with integrity, etc. The military vets are so very “good” and the Earth’s leaders so very “bad” and corrupt and depraved that, again, it makes the characters completely one dimensional, stereotyped, and cartoonish. The book is largely predictable, the “battle” scenes, if you can call them that, are pathetic, particularly if you compare them to other military sci fi novelists like David Weber, Chris Bunch, and John Ringo, etc. This guy simply can’t write. And one more shining example of the utter stupidity of this book. The ships. They are starships/warships. They fly in outer space, like ships do in every other sci fi novel. They are technologically advanced. They have technologically advanced weaponry. They have technologically advanced navigation abilities. They FLY in outer space. Toward the latter stages of the book, they are made into intergalactic ships, so they are capable of traveling to other galaxies. Yet the only method of lifting off, landing, transporting, and storing any of these ships on any planet by any nationality or race is unbelievable. They are actual ships. That’s right. They need water. They take off and land in oceans and lakes. They maneuver and travel in water. They are docked in water. They are stored in water, at docks. OMG. How archaic is that? I’ve never seen anything so unbelievably stupid in a sci fi novel in my life! You’re telling me you can construct warships/spaceships that are technologically advanced enough to fight space battles and to travel to other galaxies, but the only way you can take off and land on a planet is to taxi and lift off from an ocean or lake? Are you fucking INSANE??? Most sci fi writers usually have off planet docking facilities for larger ships and you take pinaces or landers or smaller ships of some sort to the planet’s surface. Barring that, most ships have landing gear so they can land on the surface of the planet, ie the ground. Water? That’s insane! What is this, the 1700s in space?
This is how boneheaded Bill Baldwin is. I could go on with more examples, such as the weaponry in his spaceships, his countless threats that are never followed through on throughout the book, the absolute idiocy of virtually all of the characters except Kobir, the fact that the author at times seems to be mirroring Weber’s style and ideas in some ways, etc. But I won’t. Suffice it to say, this is an unbelievably bad book. This is a one star book and most definitely not recommended.
One thought on “A Review of Canby’s Legion”
Sounds like a real dud.
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