When All Seems Lost: A Novel of the Legion of the Damned
by William C. Dietz
Review by Harriet Klausner
Ace Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441015245
Date: 02 October 2007 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Interstellar war seems imminent as the ruthless Ramanthians have one objective, to control the known universe and anything beyond. This brutal insectoid race knows only one way to succeed; fight to the death by physically overwhelming the opponents on the battlefield and mentally destroying their souls. Nothing is outside their realm, as other species are subjugated by any means including pandemic slaughter of civilians and torture of prisoners.
The Ramanthians capture Marcott Nankool, the president of the Confederacy of Sentient Beings. However, the Ramanthians remain ignorant of whom they have incarcerated; still they have begun their abusive treatment of him and his aides as part of their normal mistreatment of POWs by shipping them to a remote labor camp where they will work until they die under hostile conditions or if they live long enough become fodder for the billions of hatchlings about to be born.
One of the human prisoners, career diplomat Christine Vanderveen knows that any one of the so called loyal members of President Nankool's attendants could give away his identity as a means of obtaining better conditions. She keeps a close eye on all of them to see who is breaking under the pressure because she will kill that traitor if need be.
Meanwhile vice president Leo Jakov, with Assistant Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Kay Wilmot at his side like a Siamese twin, has told the military to mount no rescue mission; he rationalizes that President Nankool is dead and he is in charge. Independent Legion General William Booly ignores the direct order of his superior. He assigns Captain Antonio Santana to find volunteers to rescue the President. Tonio agrees to lead the suicidal rescue attempt not out of patriotism or loyalty to the president or even following an order, but because his beloved former lover Christine is one of the prisoners.
The latest Legion of the Damned novel (For More Than Glory and For Those Who Fell) starts at hyperspeed and accelerates from there into a fabulous graphic military science fiction opus in which readers will need seat belts. As always in a William Dietz outer space thriller, readers obtain a deep look at various societies. The Ramanthians are an interesting brutal culture that displays the intellect of social insects with a group mentality in which the race comes first; losing millions in combat is not mourned as numbers of dead mean nothing to them as billions are hatched to replace those who died in combat. The labor camp – hatchery is vivid and must not be read on a full stomach.
The human and other alien prisoners forge a siege mentality society as they initially band around the concept of protecting Nankool's identity with the hope of rescue. Christine sticks out as she anticipates at least one of them will fail to adhere to their vow of silence, but whom. She watches everyone closely expecting to kill anyone who looks like they might falter in order to buy time.
The military also has a mini society of heroes willing to die to mount the rescue. Whereas the vice president is elated with the Nankool captivity as his goal is to be president at all costs, but mindful of Macbeth, General Booly knows their cause will end in defeat to a species, who assumes humans are at best weak animals to serve their superiors, if the weak ambitious Jakov is left in charge. If they fail to rescue Nankool, Booly might consider a coup. Once again in spite the adrenaline rush of non stop brutally explicit combat and prison camp details that will please military science fiction fans, it is the incredible in-depth interactions of Ramanthian society and the human and their allies sub-societies that make When All Seems Lost a must read for sub-genre fans.