Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Traveller -- suggested readings for a space marine?

I've rolled up a four-term former space marine for an upcoming Traveller game, and I'm looking for inspirational readings. Starship Troopers is a no brainer -- I've never read it, and it's an obvious place to start. A friend, Bill, also suggested the novel The Short-Timers, by Gustav Hasford. It turns out that the full text of the book is available from the author's website, but I'll probably end up checking it out of the library.

Any other suggestions?

I'm open to fiction or non-fiction, and I'm not concerned about the politics of the recommended book. (Movies are fine as well, but I'd be less likely to get around to watching a movie than I would to checking out a book.)

10 comments:

  1. Full-Metal Jacket was based off the Short Timers I seem to remember. For contemporary jarheads I would recommend Generation Kill (book and the HBO mini-series).

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  2. It depends very much on the setting and how you see your character now that he's no longer a Space Marine but an adventurer.

    I would recommend the SF novels Hammer's Slammers, The Forever War, Rimrunners, Old Man's War and many more.

    For films I would recommend Starship Troopers and Aliens of course, but after that it actually gets kind of tricky. There is a lot of good anime and manga though.

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  3. Thanks for the pointers, guys.

    Now that you mention it, ckutalik, I've heard of Generation Kill. But I had forgotten about it. I'll take a look at it. You're right about The Short Timers. I'd never heard of it before Bill told me about it, but he mentioned that it had been a source for Full Metal Jacket (which is a movie I've seen a fair number of times).

    The SF novels are much appreciated, Adam. I'll see which are available from my local libraries. Since you mentioned it, I'm angling for a fairly "realistic" take on a former marine... maybe "grounded" is a better word. So I'll be trying to avoid most of the tropes associated with the kind of space marine found in 40K (to take an obvious gaming point-of-reference).

    A guy who has seen some serious action in standard 4 or 6 man teams, still fairly young (mid-thirties), now he's working as the ship's security, anti-boarding, and recon guy. He left the corps without much money (and not enough terms for a pension). Now he's joined this crew of traveller's to see if he can't make ends meet. Also, he ended up with no real skills outside military ones, so he's doing the one thing he knows how to do.

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  4. Slightly OT, but would westerns be a good source for this character? The genre generally had a lot of ex-military characters falling in with other chancers to try and make a living...

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  5. That's a good point, Chris. Any specific shows that fit the bill?

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  6. A couple of comics suggestions: Bad Company, the (I think) second book of Halo Jones and Rogue Trooper, all from 2000AD.

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  7. As noted, Starship Troopers is an excellent source. It’s also short. Its protagonist is perhaps a bit more shiny-idealistic than your character will be, but it’s a can’t-miss. This was my first Heinlein; I read it as a 12 year old military brat, and absolutely loved it.

    Armor, by John Steakley, is another novel involving power-armored soldiers fighting bug-like aliens, written in some respects in response to ST. Steakley can write ACTION, and has darker characters. I love this one almost as much as ST.

    Haldeman’s The Forever War might not be quite as useful; it postulates even more advanced technology and is very dark and pessimistic in outlook. It also was written partially in response to Heinlein’s ST, and from the perspective of a writer very much disillusioned by Vietnam. It’s a good book, though.

    Generation Kill (the miniseries; I haven’t read the book) is very entertaining. Bearing in mind that many of the characters are not career military, it does give you a good look at some of the insanity of war, the stuff the soldiers go through and acting-out they engage in to relieve stress, and the multiple motivations and backgrounds of soldiers.

    I’ve heard good things about Hammer’s Slammers, including from gamers in the military, but haven’t read any of them.

    Another one I’d strongly recommend is Voice of the Whirlwind, by Walter Jon Williams. This book is usually described as Cyberpunk, but it’s got humanity out in space a lot. The main character is the clone of a retired corporate special forces soldier, investigating the mystery of his own death (among other things).

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  8. Thanks for the comics, Kelvin. I'll look into those.

    Thanks for that in-depth response, Shimrod. This is turning into a nice little list. The stuff you're saying about Generation Kill -- "a good look at the insanity of war, the stuff the soldiers go through and acting-out they engage in to relieve stress, and the multiple motivations and backgrounds" -- sounds like it'll make for interesting reading and be a valuable resource as well.

    Rich

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  9. Hmmm, are the Halo novels any good? Does anyone know? While I doubt we're looking at the grand prose of Heinlein or Haldeman, Halo's Spartan Armored Master Chief definitely comes to mind when I think of the Space Marines of Traveller.

    Plus they just look so kick ass.

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  10. I'm on the same wavelength -- I'm picturing halo-influenced armor and weapons designs when I imagine Traveller space marines, too. I like the more mobile, high tech feel of them in contrast to the hyper-bulk 40k marines.

    No idea about the quality of the novels. But just playing the game might be just as good as inspiration.

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