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March to the Stars (Empire of Man Series #3)
     

March to the Stars (Empire of Man Series #3)

4.2 28
by David Weber, John Ringo
 

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Another Sunny Day on Marduk. Roger Ramius Sergei Alexander Chiang MacClintock has had a really bad year. Bad enough to be the spoiled rotten fop of a prince no one wanted or trusted. Worse to be sent off on a meaningless diplomatic mission, simply to get you out from underfoot, with a bodyguard of Marines who loathe and despise you. Worse yet to be assumed dead and

Overview

Another Sunny Day on Marduk. Roger Ramius Sergei Alexander Chiang MacClintock has had a really bad year. Bad enough to be the spoiled rotten fop of a prince no one wanted or trusted. Worse to be sent off on a meaningless diplomatic mission, simply to get you out from underfoot, with a bodyguard of Marines who loathe and despise you. Worse yet to be assumed dead and marooned for almost a year on a hell-hole planet while you and those same Marines fight your way through carnivorous beasts, murderous natives, and perpetual rain to the only starport ... which is controlled by the Empire's worst enemies. Worst of all to have discovered that you were born to be a warrior prince. One whose bodyguards have learned the same lesson. And one haunted by the deaths of almost a hundred of your Marines ... for what you know now was an unnecessary exercise in political expediency. A warrior prince who wants to have a few choice words with your Lady Mother, the Empress of Man. But to have them, you, your surviving Marines, and your Mardukan allies must cross a demon-haunted ocean, face a civilization that is "civilized" in name alone and "barbarians" who may not be exactly what they seem, and once again battle against impossible odds. All so that you can attempt to somehow seize a heavily defended spaceport and hijack a starship to take you home. Yet what neither Roger, nor the Marines, nor his allies know is that the battle to leave Marduk is only the beginning. And that words with Roger's mother will be hard to come by. But that's all right. Because what the Galaxy doesn't know is that it's about to receive a fresh proof of an old truism: You don't mess with a MacClintock.

Editorial Reviews

When we first encountered Prince Roger MacClintock, he struck us as an insufferable, if talented, brat. But in each March series book, the self-absorbed prince has gained maturity. In this action-packed military science fiction episode, he and his Royal Marine protectors must battle enemies, including ship-gobbling sea monsters.
Publishers Weekly
In their third outstanding military SF novel about a spoiled, foppish princeling's coming of age while marooned on the primitive planet of Marduk after a bungled assassination attempt, Weber and Ringo (March Upcountry; March to the Sea) show Prince Roger developing into a thoughtful and highly competent (not to mention dangerous and charismatic) leader, who can inspire loyalty among both his Marine bodyguards and the Mardukan troops who have lent a hand or four. Parallels with Prince Hal in Henry IV are probably intentional, adding a certain gravitas to the many exceptionally well-done battle scenes, especially one that recalls the scale of Tolkien's Helm's Deep, which Roger wins by exercise of intelligence rather than strength. The prince and his followers discover that the original assassination attempt is part of a wider plot, as is a particularly loathsome example of cross-cultural contamination affecting the dominant Mardukan society. As Roger and company prepare to leave the planet, readers can look forward to seeing how the authors will retell Henry V. It should be one hell of a St. Crispin's Day. (Jan.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743488181
Publisher:
Baen
Publication date:
04/01/2004
Series:
Empire of Man Series , #3
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
640
Sales rank:
240,705
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE

The body was in a state of advanced decomposition. Time, and the various insect analogues of Marduk, had worked their way with it, and what was left was mostly skeleton with a few bits of clinging tendon and skin. Temu Jin would have liked to say it was the worst thing he'd ever seen, but that would have been a lie.

He turned over one of the skeletal hands and ran a sensor wand across it. The catacomblike tomb was hot and close, especially with three more team members and one of the gigantic Mardukans packed into it with him. The heat on Marduk was always bad--the "temperate" regions were a fairly constant thirty-five degrees--but in the tomb, with the remnant stink of decomposition (not to mention the smell of the unwashed assholes he'd arrived with), it was like an antechamber to Hell.

One that was already inhabited.

There was no question that its occupants had been Imperial Marines. Or, at least, people with Marine nano packs. The trace materials and surviving nanites were coded, and the sensor practically screamed "Imperials." But the questions were how they had gotten here ... and why they were here. He could think of several reasons, and he liked the stink of all of them even less than he did the stench in this room.

"Ask them again, geek," Dara said in a tight voice. The survey team leader choked for a second--again--then hawked, spat, and finished by blowing out his nose on the floor. Marduk was hell on his sinuses. "Talk gook. Make sure this is all there was."

Jin looked up at the towering Mardukan and ran the translation through his "toot." The tutorial implant, lodged just inside his mastoid bone, took hischosen words, translated them into the local Mardukan dialect, and adjusted his speaking voice to compensate.

"My illustrious leader wishes to ensure, once again, that there were no survivors."

Mardukan expressions were not the same as those of humans. Among other things, their faces had fewer muscles, and much of their expressiveness came from eloquent gestures of their four arms. But the body language of this Mardukan was closed, as well. Part of that might be from the fact that he was missing one arm from the elbow down. Currently, there was a rather nice prosthetic hook in its place, razor-sharp on both sides. So Dara had to be either stupid, arrogant, or both to ask, for the fifth time, if the Voitan representative was lying.

"Alas," T'Leen Targ said with a sorrowful but cautious sweep of his arms (and hook), "there were no survivors. A few lasted a pair of days, but then they, too, succumbed. We did all we could for them. That we had been only a day sooner! The battle was great; your friends warred upon more Kranolta than the stars in the sky! They stacked them against the walls of the city and cut them down with their powerful fire-lances! Had our relief force but been sooner, some might have survived! Woe! But we were too late, alas. However, they did break the power of the Kranolta, and for that Voitan was and is eternally thankful. It was because of that gratitude that we interred them here, with our own honored dead, in hopes that someday others of their kind might come for them. And ... here you are!"

"Same story," Jin said, turning back to the team leader.

"Where's the weapons? Where's the gear?" Dara demanded. Unlike the commo-puke's, his toot was an off-the-shelf civilian model and couldn't handle the only translation program available. It was loaded with the local patois used around the distant starport, but handling multiple dialects was beyond its capability, and Jin's system couldn't cross load the translation files.

"Some of that stuff should have survived," the team leader continued. "And there were supposed to be more of them at the last city. Where'd the rest of 'em go?"

"My illustrious leader asks about our dear friends' weapons and equipment," Jin said. The communications technician had had fairly extensive dealings with the natives, both back at the distant starport and on the hellish odyssey to this final resting place of the human castaways. And of them all, this one made him the most nervous. He'd almost rather be in the jungles again. Which was saying a lot.

Marduk was an incredibly hot, wet, and stable planet. The result was a nearly worldwide jungle, filled with the most vicious predators in the known worlds. And it seemed that the search team--or assassination team, depending on how one viewed it--had run into all of them on its journey here.

The starport's atmospheric puddle-jumpers had flown them to the dry lakebed where the four combat shuttles had landed. There was no indication, anywhere, of what unit had flown those shuttles, or where they had come from. All of them had been stripped of any information, and their computers purged. Just four Imperial assault shuttles, totally out of fuel, in the middle of five thousand square kilometers of salt.

There had, however, been a clear trail off the lakebed, leading up into the mountains. The search team had followed it, flying low, until it reached the lowland jungles. After that it had just ... disappeared into the green hell.

Dara's request to return to base at that point had been denied. It was unlikely, to say the very least, that the shuttle crews might survive to reach civilization. Even taking the local flora and fauna out of the equation, the landing site was on the far side of the planet from the starport, and unless they had brought along enough dietary supplements, they would starve to death long before they could make the trip. But unlikely or not, their fate had to be known. Not so much because anyone would ever ask, or care, about them. Because if there was any shred of a possibility that they could reach the base, or worse, get off planet, they had to be eliminated.

That consideration had been unstated, and it was also one of the reasons that the tech wasn't sure he would survive the mission. The "official" reason for the search was simply to rescue the survivors. But the composition of the team made it much more likely that the real reason was to eliminate a threat. Dara was the governor's official bully-boy. Any minor "problem" that could be fixed with a little muscle or a discreetly disappearing body tended to get handed to the team leader. Otherwise, he was pretty useless. As demonstrated by his inability to see what was right in front of his eyes.

The rest of the team was cut from the same cloth. All fourteen of them--there'd been seventeen ... before the local fauna got a shot at them on the trek here--were from the locally hired "guard" force, and all were wanted on one planet or another. Aware that maintaining forces on Class Three planets was difficult, at best, the distant Imperial capital allowed local governors wide latitude in the choice of personnel. Governor Brown had, by and large, hired what were still known as "Schultzes," guards who could be trusted to see, do, and hear nothing. Still, there were those special occasions when a real problem cropped up. And to deal with those problems, he had secured a "special reaction force" composed of what could graciously be called "scum." If, of course, one wanted to insult scum.

Jin was well aware that he was not an "official" member of the Special Force. As such, this mission might be a test for entry, and in many ways, that could be a good thing. Unfortunately, even if it was an entry test, there was still one huge issue associated with the mission: It might involve fighting the Marines. He had several reasons, not the least of which was the likelihood of being blasted into plasma, to not want to fight Marines, but the mission had been angling steadily that way.

Now, however, it seemed all his worry had been for naught. The last of the Marines had died here, in this lonely outpost, overrun by barbarians before their friendly "civilized" supporters could arrive to save them!

Sure they did, he thought, and snorted mentally. Either they wandered off and these guys are covering for them ... or else the locals finished them off themselves and are graciously willing to give these "Kranolta" the credit. The only problem at this point is figuring out which.

"Alas," the local said yet again. He seemed remarkably fond of that word, Jin thought cynically as Targ gestured in the direction of the distant jungle somewhere outside the tomb. "The Kranolta took all their equipment with them. There was nothing left for us to give to their friends. That is, to you."

And you can believe as much or as little of that as you like, Jin thought. But the answer left a glaring hole he had to plug. And hope his efforts never came to light.

"The scummy says the barbs threw all the gear into the river," he mistranslated.

"Poth!" Dara snarled. "That means it's all trashed. And we can't trace the power packs! Even trashed, we could've gotten something for them."

What an imbecile, Jin thought. Dara must have been hiding behind the door when brains were given out.

When a body is looted, the looters very rarely take every scrap of clothing. Nor was that the only peculiarity. There was one clinging bit of skin on the corpse before him which had clearly been cut away in an oval, as if to remove a tattoo after the person was dead ... and there were no weapons or even bits of weapons anywhere in sight. For that matter, the entire battle site had been meticulously picked over to remove every trace of evidence. Some of the scars from plasma gun fire had even been covered up. The barbarians, according to the locals' time line, could not possibly have swept the battlefield that well, no matter how addicted to trophy-taking they might be, before the "civilized" locals arrived to finish driving them off.

The last city they'd passed through had also been remarkably reticent about the actions the objects of the search team's curiosity had taken on their way through. The crews of the downed shuttles had apparently swept into town, destroyed and looted a selected few of the local "Great Houses," and then swept out again, just as rapidly. According to the local king and the very few nobles they'd been permitted to question, at least. And in that town, the search team had been followed everywhere by a large enough contingent of guards to make attempts to question anyone else contraindicated.

All of that proved one thing to Jin, and it took a sadistic, snot-filled idiot like Dara not to see it.

The bodies had been sterilized.

Somebody wanted to make damn sure no one could determine who these Marines had been without a DNA database. The dead Marines' toots were already a dead issue, of course. Their built-in nanites had obediently reduced them to half-crumbled wreckage once their owners were dead. That was a routine security measure, but the rest of this definitely went far beyond "routine." Which meant these particular people were something other than standard Marines. Either Raiders or ... something else. And since the locals were covering for them so assiduously, it was glaringly obvious that all of them hadn't died.

All of which meant that there was a short company--from the number of shuttles, Jin had put their initial force at a company--of an Imperial special operations unit out there wandering in the jungle. And the only reasonable target for their wandering was a certain starport.

Lovely.

He pushed aside a bit of the current corpse's hair, looking for any clue. The Marine had been female, with longish, dishwater blond hair. That was the only thing about the skeletal remains which would have been recognizable to anyone but a forensic pathologist, which Jin was not. He had some basic training in forensics, but all he could tell about this corpse was that a blade had half-severed the left arm. However, under the cover of the hair, there was a tiny earring. Just a scrap of bronze, with one ten-letter word on it.

Jin was unable to keep his eyes from widening, but he didn't freeze. He was far too well trained to do something so obvious. He simply moved his hand in a smooth motion, and the tiny earring was ripped from the decaying ear, a scrap of skin still dangling from it.

"I'm not finding anything," he said, getting to his feet as he willed his face to total immobility.

He looked at the native, who returned his regard impassively. The local "king" was named T'Kal Vlan. He'd greeted the search team as long-lost cousins, all the time giving the impression that he wanted to sell them a rug. For T'Leen Targ, though, it always seemed to be a toss-up between selling them a rug and burying them in one. Now the local scratched his horn with his hook and nodded ... in a distinctly human fashion.

"I take it that you did not find anything," Targ said. "I'm so sorry. Will you be taking the bodies with you?"

"I think not," Jin replied. Standing as they were, the team leader was behind the local. Jin reached out with his left hand, and the Mardukan took it automatically, another example of acculturation to Terrans. Jin wondered if the Marines had realized how many clues they were unavoidably leaving behind. Given who they apparently were, it was probable, for all the proof of how hard they'd worked to avoid it. As he shook the Mardukan's slime-covered hand, a tiny drop of bronze was left behind, stuck in the mucus.

"I don't think we'll be back," the commo tech said. "But you might want to melt this down so nobody else finds it."

In the palm of the native's hand, the word "BARBARIANS" was briefly impressed into the mucus.

Then it disappeared.

Meet the Author

David Weber is a science fiction phenomenon. His popular Honor Harrington & Honorverse novels—including Mission of Honor, At All Costs, and Torch of Freedom — are New York Times bestsellers and can't come out fast enough for his devoted readers. He is also the author of the Safehold series of books, including Off Armageddon Reef and By Schism Rent Asunder. His other popular novels include Out of the Dark, the Dahak books and the Multiverse books, written with Linda Evans.

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March to the Stars 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hardly write reviews, even on books I hate. Much less about books I love. This whole series is filled with emotional twists, military analysies, and altering viewpoints to illustrate each characters point of view, rather than just running through the story in a single frame of mind. This series, along with the finale "We Few", is a brilliantly written series. You start off understanding why exactly everyone lothes the Prince, and in the end, understanding the burden that's put on him, and witness him mature to a point that few people can acheive, even when they aren't spoon fed everything in the universe... This series will tie you in, and even when the series is finished in "We Few", you'll keep wondering: "Then what happened!?!?!" They will not only hold your attention, they'll take your imagination and send it to new heights, while still giving you the feeling that maybe.... JUST maybe... this could potentially happen.
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Robingps More than 1 year ago
If you like the Honor Harrington or the Posleen series you'll love the Prince Roger books. Well done. Excellent!
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Baddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mostly good, but I really wish Weber and Ringo (individually AND together) would refrain from introducing love interests into their stories, since they both really suck at it. There is ZERO chemistry between Roger and Despreaux. They should stick to military action, where they excel.
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B-2 More than 1 year ago
This is a Sci-Fi book, but in essence it is about warfare. It goes over all things military: from weapon design to strategy to sail navy battles to the tactics of close combat to intelligence to emotions of a soldier. It's best audience is probably the readers who studied, are interested, or have been in the military. For the rest of us civilian schpaks the book is a fine, but somewhat limited and unidimentional reading.I grade the books as Buy and Keep (BK), Read Library book and Return ( RLR) and Once I Put it Down I Couldn't Pick it Up ( OIPD-ICPU). This one is RLR - to try if you like it.
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an odyssey that mixes in captains courageous where coming into manhood and valuing people and oneself in extreme combat. weber lets people who have never been in the military understand both the grunts and the officers. The extrapolated political ideology correlates the application of green socialism where faith in good ideas leads to a broken repressive government
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
These two authors make a GREAT team! Loved this whole set of 4!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read the first one in the trilogy, and now I am hooked.The only thing is , I don't think the story is finished, and I hope the authors create a fourth title.David Weber is one of the best sci-fi authors out there. I also highly recommend the Honor Harrington series!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the very best i have ever read. I WANT A SEQUEL!!!! If they are writing one, of course. This Series, this book, is great for anyone who wants a great read. I for one, loved it.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The diplomatic mission assigned to Prince Roger was more to get rid of him for awhile than any real need except palace relief as the royals including his mother the Empress are tired of his boorish spoiled behavior. One thousand rugged Marines accompany Roger on his meaningless mission, but every one of these tough soldiers detests this royal pain in the butt. The assignment goes wrong and Roger and his troops become stuck on Marduk, a hostile planet. Over the next year or so, Roger leads his Marines and loyal Mardukans in a deadly march to reach the only spaceport held by the enemy. During the dangerous crossing that costs the lives of 100 men, Roger feels every death personally and turns into a strong military leader whose supporters are as loyal to him as any person can expect. However, whether he manages to lead the way off-planet still remains to be proven because he learns that there is more to this disaster than just what resides on Marduk. MARCH TO THE SEA is a powerful military science fiction novel that works on several levels as Roger turns from a hedonistic rotter into a strong leader. The story line is action packed as the land and ocean of Marduk seems real and in turn provides an authenticity to the adventures of the outsiders. Still it is Roger whose metamorphose against an antagonistic backdrop makes the latest outer space thriller from David Weber and John Ringo into must reading for sub-genre fans. Harriet Klausner