Review of A BOY AND HIS TANK by Leo Frankowski
New Kashubia is a planet of almost pure wealth. When its star went nova, the lighter elements were blown away leaving a complete planet of molten metal--which then cooled in neat layers. New Kashubia is a miner's delight, an industrialist's best dream, and the worst possible nightmare for any colonists unlucky enough to be sent there. With no oxygen, no hydrogen, no organic chemicals, essentially nothing to support life, the Kashubian population is condemned to slowly starve--while living in their gold-lined caves. When they discover that the industrialists left a vast array of military equipment, the Kashubians see a ray of hope--they can become mercenaries, exchanging their equipment and soldiers for the organics they require. Of course, without enough volunteers, it is tempting to resort to stripping the prisons--hence tank operator Mickolai.
The warring clans of the former Yugoslavia form ideal targets for mercenaries. The Kashubians sell their services to all sides and prepare for a friendly time with plenty of shooting and no casualties. Unfortunately for their plans, the Serbians discover that the divisions they paid for are severely undermanned and take over the largely automated tanks themselves. As a result, the hoped-for cake walk turns into real battle.
Author Leo Frankowski follows the tradition of Robert Heinlein more than that of David Drake with a personal adventure and coming of age story--yet he certainly doesn't neglect the battles. Frankowski's descriptions of the future tanks is a reasonable extrapolation from modern trends, which makes his story more compelling and interesting.
I did think that Mickolai's relationship with Kasia went a little too easily and the romantic conflict between the tank, the boy, and the girl could have been more fully developed, but this is a small quibble. A BOY AND HIS TANK is fun light reading.
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