Welcome to the Veterans Day Special Edition of Webbiegrrl's Freebie Friday feature. I wanted to showcase veterans stories this week and have a few "war stories" to recommend.
The first one is by an award-winning author who's been writing about war for over 25 years. Lois McMaster Bujold has written 17 books in a military science fiction (milSF or space opera) series called the "Vorkosigan Saga." She started with the premise of a planet colonized by humans, then cut off from the rest of humanity, left to fend for themselves in a frontier-like manner. She gave this planet, Barrayar, a class system that sets the nobility into a warrior caste (called "Vor") who are responsible not only for running the government, but also for defending the planet against various and sundry aliens.
The Vor (indicated by the syllable before their family name) have evolved into the biggest, strongest, most able-bodied of men (and most delicate of women), so the first thing Lois does to the Vor's most-decorated Hero, Aral Vorkosigan, and his long line of Vorkosigan Admirals who've single-handedly turned the tides of more than one war, is give Aral a crippled son. Overcoming this barrier to glory is the warrior's son, Miles's, lifetime goal--and ultimately, Miles's greatest achievement is that he stops overcoming his limitations and instead, embraces them. After all, "Miles" does mean soldier and he does "soldier on" for 17 or 18 stories spanning nearly 40 years (as of the last book in the series--so far).
The Warrior's Apprentice is an early work--both the introduction of Miles to the series and only the second book Lois ever wrote. Lois proves she already had it down pat by the time she wrote this book. It's designed to be a comedy of errors, a parody of the parody (The Sorcerer's Apprentice) so a lot of the plot might be regarded as AuthorConvenient. I wasn't bothered by how "conveniently" things worked out for Miles, as I saw a lot of the "convenience" to be plain and simple human nature at work and Miles just exploited opportunities. Sometimes, some people just do have all the luck. And sometimes, a plot about people doesn't have to be complex.
Lois's stories are definitely about people not things or places or events--but the events spin out of control in a side-splitting LOL way that definitely does tribute to the 19th century Goethe tale (though my favorite version remains Disney's segment in the 1962 animation, Fantasia). The places are so richly textured and vibrantly described that sometimes I feel as though the universe Lois created in this series is a character unto itself. And when it comes to "things" Lois has some of the best gadgets subtly placed into her stories without any hooplah.
The Vorkosigan Saga is, above all else, a soldier's story. The harsh realities of war are driven home--repeatedly--in the opening duology, Cordelia's Honor (includes Shards of Honor and Barrayar), where Miles suffers his in utero cellular damage) and Miles, being the right little soldier that he is despite flunking out of the Academy, will carry the weight of many wars on his bent little back for the rest of his life. The Warrior's Apprentice sets the stage and cuts out the heart of the star soldier's courage, leaving him with survivor's guilt and blood on his hands for the remainder of his life (and the series). Like some great Shakespearian Hero, Miles will never get the blood shed in The Warrior's Apprentice to ever leave his hands. Twenty years later, though I can tell you he's started to live with the stain.
The Warrior's Apprentice is available FREE through the Baen Free Library. Download it by clicking HERE (then tell all your friends).
Baen Free Library (such as Lt. Leary Commanding by David Drake or the Honor Harrington series by David Weber not to mention the prolific assortment by John Ringo) so if you like milSF, be sure to browse around.
All books in the Baen Free Library are available through the Webscriptions service. Although there is a price listed, you do not have to pay for these books. You can just download the file (or email it to your Kindle device). The price is a suggested donation to keep the Baen Free Library running.
The second book I want to offer today is one I have not read but have heard a lot about--from its author, anyway. Michael Hicks has broken into the SciFi genre with his series, In Her Name, and he's made the first book of the series, Empire, free. I cannot personally speak to this book but since it's gotten a bazillion 5-star reviews on Amazon, I suspect it's a pretty good read. Its description reminds me of a cross between Haldeman's Forever War and some of David Weber's alien invasion war stories (see the Baen Free Library).
This book is priced at FREE so no coupon is required.
Technically, I've already mentioned way more than 3 free reads but there is one more book I'd like to recommend to you today. It's a slightly different milfic by John Ringo titled Unto the Breach. You can read the first few chapters free online but the book, itself, is not free.
It is, however, possibly the best book John has ever written. The series (Paladin of Shadows, but we all just call it the "Ghost" or "Kildar" series) is not a scifi series but a sort of alternate reality. The series was written to be a sort of wish fulfillment for the author--not to be taken seriously. Then he created these make-believe people, the Keldara, in Book 2 and somehow the series took off. They are a warrior people and since John's a big fan of Lois's Vor Series, it's no surprise if you see similarities.
I reviewed Unto the Breach here, for the 4th of July weekend (with some spoilers mentioned). If you really want to get a copy of this book for free--and really love scifi or milSF--you'll have to do a little bit of work but it can be done.
First, follow me on Twitter (@webbiegrrl) then ask me for a link (@mention me). I'll follow you back and then via DM I'll send you to the location of the Holy Grail (or at least somewhere you can find a bunchaton of great books by Ringo and other Baen authors). It's totally legal (and okay with the Baen Books folks) but I cannot in good conscience advertise the link here since it's only shared by word of mouth....and we like it that way. Keeps the server running quickly.
Even though you've already got way more than 3 books here, they are all somewhat serious soldier stories--which was the point, given it's Veterans Day--but there's one book I featured over Labor Day weekend that has risen to #31 on the Amazon Kindle Store's Top 100 Free Books list (Edited to say it's risen #30 just in the last hour!! Go, Ruby!!) I just had to give a shoutout to Ruby Barnes for this great achievement. Plus Peril is a bit of comic relief you might appreciate right about now (and the bookending of comic relief for this blog post is a symmetry I cannot resist!)
Peril is priced at FREE on Smashwords so no coupon code is required. I'm sure it's still FREE on the American side of the Amazon Kindle Store but since I'm in the US, I cannot check the price status for the UK Kindle Store. If it's not free in the UK Kindle Store, European and other non-American readers can just stop by Smashwords to get your free copy.
Tomorrow I'll have more SciFi edits done but I'm not sure if it's a good idea to snippet. Some serious stuff is going on in Conditioned Response right now and giving away all those spoilers might ruin someone's fun. I'll have chapters up for commenting until about Thanksgiving weekend so tomorrow, if you'd like to get another free read, visit the Authonomy site to read Conditioned Response through my current state of repair. If my editing keeps progressing as nicely as it has been this past week or two, I should be able to get the book finished by mid-December but then it'll be a serious scramble to get it formatted and released by December 31st! As Emperor Gregor (in the Vorkosigan series) always says, Let's see what happens.