Thursday, March 06, 2014

Big Boys Don't Cry - Tom Kratman

Tom Kratman is another contemporary science fiction author whose work I've been wanting to try. I have several of his novels on my shelves. But they're all so long I haven't been able to work up the mental energy to dive into them. That's why I was glad to see this new e-book novella. Stories like this are perfect for trying new authors.

Kratman is known for his military SF, and BIG BOYS DON'T CRY is solidly in that sub-genre. It's the story of a battle tank operated by a sentient AI known as Magnolia, or Maggie for short. Huge, heavily armored, and sporting dozens of weapons, Maggie fights alongside other sentient war machines in battles across the galaxy against a number of different alien races. She's badly damaged in one of them, and while she's waiting to be "salvaged" by her human masters, Kratman uses a series of flashbacks to cover her career as a Ratha fighting machine, including her initial programming.

It's while this is going on that the reader begins to realize not everything is what it appears to be. The story actually becomes pretty poignant and packed with a lot more emotion than you might expect a tale about a mechanized, computerized killer to be. It all leads up to a dark but very effective ending.

I didn't know if I was going to like this one at first. It seemed a little heavy on mindless action to me. However, that was just Kratman fooling me, gradually drawing me into the yarn he was spinning. I wound up thinking that BIG BOYS DON'T CRY is an excellent SF novella. I still want to read Kratman's novels, but who knows when I'll have a big enough block of time to do that.



Keith West said...

I've not tried Kratman for the same reason - length. This one looked too much like Laumer's Bolo stories, but with your recommendation, I'll give it a try.

James Reasoner said...

I've seen Laumer's Bolo stories around but have never read any of them. This one may indeed be too much like them, I don't know. I've never read much of Laumer's work, but I've enjoyed what I've read. Who was his diplomat character? Retief?

Keith West said...

Yes, Retief. I enjoyed the Bolo stories, and I know a number of authors continued them after Laumer's death. I haven't read any of the ones by other authors.

I've not read much of Laumer's work, and most of what I've read have been short stories. I thought the Retief stories got a bit repetitive, but that was over a decade ago when I read them. His other work was good but not IMO great.