Bolo! by David Weber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Bolo! isn’t necessarily a bad book. It’s just that it’s not that great either, at least not by David Weber’s standards. Apparently, one Keith Laumer created the Bolo decades ago. It’s an uber-tank, one with so many uber-weapons on it, everyone in the universe knows of it and is terrified of it. Just one alone can defend an entire planet. One can level an entire city while shooting down warships attacking the planet. It’s farfetched, but intriguing as a premise. And apparently, many authors have written stories and books with Bolos as their theme. This Weber book is a compilation of some short stories he wrote, mostly during the 1990s, collected here in one volume. It could be decent, but it’s not exactly what I expect from Weber, so I didn’t finish it.
The first story is about an old Bolo, about 80 years old, left unattended on this backwater planet, sent a new Naval commander. But the late former commander had made some “adjustments” to this Bolo and it has become essentially sentient. Its name is Nike and it thinks about its old and new commanders and analyzes everything at all times, searching for threats. The new commander, Merritt, realizes pretty quickly what he has on his hands and he doesn’t inform his chain of command because he doesn’t want his new toy taken from him. But he begins to develop an unusual and somewhat unrealistic affection for Nike, and this is what began to turn me off to the story. He starts treating Nike like a woman, like a girlfriend/mistress/lover and refers to her (it has a female voice, as it was programmed to have one by its late female commander) as “darling” and “love.” It’s a little too icky for me to like or buy.
An evil corporation wants to run the population off this planet because it’s just become a newly important junction in a trade route, so it hires a mercenary team, does some research and surveillance, discovers the Bolo and buys the mercenaries new tactical equipment, including two “generic” Bolos of their own. Then they invade. You can guess the rest of the story. The human and machine lovers ride off to their deaths into the sunset, defending the planet with their blood and … motor oil? It’s very touching. Yep. A bit overly dramatic, I’d call it. Way too dramatic. So damn dramatic, I decided not to read any more stories, as I figured I’d read just about enough on the Bolos that I could, why endure more?
Weber can write a great series. He has several and I have all of the books. He also usually writes great battle scenes. But his standalone books usually lack something. Such is the case with this one. It doesn’t have the usual Weber touch. It’s just too corny. Two stars or three? Three stars because the Bolos really are cool weapons. However, not recommended.