I know it’s hard to believe, but I am not just a writer of BattleTech, I’m a fan. So when these three novellas came out in a compendium, I got a copy. I wasn’t disappointed. These are tales of the Kell brothers in the formation of the infamous Kell Hounds mercenary unit.
This takes place during the Third Succession War, back when we could conquer a planet with a company of BattleMechs. Boy, those were the days. Rumors of lostech prevail, pirate raids are a reality, and you had to make every missile count. ‘Mechs were patched and cobbled together with binder-twine and a prayer. Politics was less about what the Archon or Chancellor were thinking, but what happened on a local planet-level. I miss a lot of that era as a fan because it was so simple and fun. Mike has done an outstanding job of taking us back to those heady days of yesteryear with these stories. It is as if he adopted a writing style he used back-in-the-day. The pacing is brisk with subtle twists and turns.
When I was at the writer’s meeting two months ago I spoke with him about the stories and told him what I really liked best was the dialogue between Morgan and Patrick Kell. The quips, the intricately crafted barbs, they were fun to read. Mike pointed out to me that before these novellas, fans had never really seen and heard the brothers together. For long-time fans, it is a special treat.
Each story stands alone and I won’t spoil any plots here. I love the characters we get air-time with…Prince Ian Davion, Archon Katrina Steiner…and some of the foundational characters in the Kell Hounds. It’s the little bits I enjoyed, like baby Melissa Steiner crying in the background of a scene. These materials are perfect if you are going to run the new MechWarrior RPG because they give you some of the intrigue and challenges of starting up a mercenary unit from scratch.
Personally, I liked the first and third stories the best. The second one deals with religion, and while masterfully done, I always lean away from religion in BattleTech. Too many years of ComStar do that to you. Too much, “Hocus Pocus HPG Focus…” makes you shy away from true religious-based stories – though Mike does a great job with his.
This is not one of the spine novels, something universe shattering. Instead these fill wonderful and entertaining gaps in BattleTech history. They become more important with some of the events yet to come – so go out and buy this compendium!