Storms of Victory, the third book in Jerry Pournelle’s JANISSARIES series, begins with a wedding and a war council, two events that epitomize Rick Galloway’s interactions on the planet Tran so far — making allies and subduing enemies. Even as he solidifies one alliance with a marriage, the mood of the festive occasion is dampened by rumors of impending political and religious conflict. Besides his known allies and enemies, Rick is soon dealing with traitors, assassins, kidnappers, and teenage ninjas. Nobody can be trusted — not even his own wife. In fact, Rick’s marriage is on the rocks, a situation that provides much of the dramatic tension in Storms of Victory.
All of this drama and turmoil is preventing Rick et al from focusing on their most important job — harvesting the psychotropic plant for their alien overlords. After all, that’s what they’re on Tran for. But Rick also hopes to spark an industrial revolution which he’ll have to hide from the aliens, lest they bomb Tran back to the Stone Age. But not all of the men that came to Tran from Earth have Tran’s best interests in mind, even though it’s their new home. A fresh life in a new world where men can remake themselves as they wish shows their true natures as it brings out the best in some of them and the worst in others.
This installment of Pournelle’s JANISSARIES series (there are only three books, but I can’t call it a trilogy because it’s unfinished) is similar to the previous book, Clan and Crown. Much of the plot focuses on the military tactics Rick and his soldiers use to try to bring peace to the planet — the movements of the infantry, cavalry, pike men, and archers. Again we learn little about what’s going on with the aliens and what the fate of Earth (which is under discussion) might be.
What’s different in Storms of Victory is the subplot with Rick’s wife, Tylara. She is struggling with guilt over something she did in the previous book and this is affecting her relationship with Rick. She has to work through her guilt, realize that what she did affects more people than she realizes, and decide what she’s going to do to make things right. Perhaps she can turn her evil deeds into good and have a chance to redeem herself. Although I thought this subplot went on too long, it was nice to see some development from Tylara and others associated with this part of the story.
At the end of Storms of Victory, some of the problems have been solved, but there is so much left to do. I’m waiting for the humans to turn on the aliens, or at least to start advancing enough technologically that they have to begin hiding their progress from the aliens. That’s what I want to see — it would be much more interesting than back-to-back military campaigns — but we’re not there yet. Book four, Mamelukes, has been in progress for at least eight years. (You can read the first three chapters at Jerry Pournelle’s website.)
It’s hard to know whether to recommend JANISARRIES. As it stands now, I have to say no because even though the premise is exciting and it’s intelligent and well written, it has become bogged down with the minutia of militarily subduing a planet. The overarching story has advanced very little and the next book is nowhere in sight.
If you do decide to pick up JANISSARIES, I recommend the audio version produced by Blackstone Audio. It’s just over 11 hours long and Keith Szarabajka does a nice job with the narration.
Janissaries — (1979-1996) With Roland J. Green. Publisher: Some days it just didn’t pay to be a soldier. Captain Rick Galloway and his men had been talked into volunteering for a dangerous mission -only to be ruthlessly abandoned when faceless CIA higher-ups pulled the plug on the operation. They were cut off in hostile territory, with local troops and their Cuban “advisors” rapidly closing in. And then the alien spaceship landed…