This is full of spoiler-stuff. If you haven’t read Children of Kerensky yet, don’t read this. Or, read it, but don’t bitch about it. We cool? Also, if you HAVE read the book, please post an online review on Amazon or wherever you bought it.
Ah, where to begin? This book leverages some characters that appear in numerous BattleTech works. To list them all would be folly and in some cases, very self-serving. I want to thank those that went before me and ask your indulgence as we inch closer to a new era.
This is a book about a boy and a girl who share a common dream. Sure that dream is the conquest of Earth and the formation of a stellar empire that will impact the lives of hundreds of billions of people with war, chaos, turmoil and mayhem. But hey, it’s still a dream. Everyone should have goals. It doesn’t seem like they are asking for much.
When I began writing BattleTech stories, some 35 years ago, my stories were primarily plot driven, as opposed to character driven. Both have their place in the BattleTech universe. I see myself now, more than at any time, as a character-based writer. Divided We Fall is about fantastic and strong characters. It is short, so character development is limited, but it is a story about the key characters and the ones that are there, pop and sizzle. Forever Faithful has a big plot but it is the story of a handful of Clan warriors – that is its essence. Same with Rock of the Republic. That book reintroduced Devlin Stone as a full-blown character in the universe and gave us a glimpse into Damien Redburn far beyond a snippet of text in a sourcebook.
Children of Kerensky is all about characters. In this case, the plot is a thin-veil the wraps the characters and keeps them together. This is about how outstanding characters in extraordinary situations. This story is about two of the greatest warriors of their era and their markedly different styles to striving for the ultimate success – to become the ilClan.
This story began its life as the first third of the original draft of Hour of the Wolf. At the writer’s summit, we decided to split it off as its own book with some significant modifications and additions. The intent was simple – have Children take us up to the start of Hour of the Wolf, right to the edge, tell the story of the Clans rushing to Terra (at least the ones the reader knows about.) This book can/should (in my opinion) be read just before you hop into Hour of the Wolf. It is all about the characters, giving the reader the perspective of the two major Clans Khans and their approach to cracking the nut of Terra. It is the counterbalance to Rock of the Republic which dealt with the Republic perspective of the coming conflict.
This author’s problem was complicated. Both of these characters have been established in bits and pieces in other novels that remain out of print. Each is not a character that readers are going to easily bond with. They are hard to like. Alaric is aloof, cocky, sometimes vicious, and at times feeling like he has some plot armor under that uniform (which I had to surgically remove.) And with Katherine Steiner-Davion-Wolf as a mother – well, you feel sorry for him, but don’t want to hang with the guy. Malvina, well, she is vicious, cunning, ruthless, vicious, relentless, vicious and lacks any moral compass. Did I mention vicious? Even some seasoned BattleTech writers chalk her up as crazy and walk away. I don’t see her as that. Regardless, as a writer, if I wrote a book from just their perspectives alone, I feared I might turn off readers.
So their story has to be told through the perspectives of those around them. In a weird way, you learn a lot about Alaric and Malvina through the other characters that are introduced in this book. Malvina and Alaric are complicated and complex. Also, when the smoke settles, we will be in a new age, the era of the ilClan. That means we need a suite of new characters for fans to bond with.
Let’s dive into some of the new characters in Children:
To begin, let’s talk Chance Vickers. Hands-down one of my favorite characters ever. Chance is dedicated to Alaric, committed 100%. Chance is a true-believer, and they are the most dangerous characters of all. She is a secret weapon for Alaric to employ. Devoid of ambition, she is the epitome of the Clan breeding system in some respects. She is focused on the ultimate prize and what it will take to get there. What inspired her was General DeChavilier and his relationship with Aleksandr Kerensky. Alaric needed that. On his own, as a character, he can be overpowering, so much larger than life. Chance makes him human. She asks the questions we all have of him, because she’s the only one that can. She is one of the few that can challenge him intellectually, but most of that comes from her being inside his head to begin with.
Her arc of development is big, complicated, and challenging as a writer and I’m sure as a reader. Wait until Hour of the Wolf. She is based on a number of real people and other characters from other sci-fi series (Honor Harrington). As a person Chance is simple, almost binary in her thinking. Loyalty is what she is about, unwavering devotion to a cause and a man, Alaric.
Underestimate Chance at your own risk. She is as much an architect of the plan to take Terra as Alaric. Chance is playing to win, all out win. Alaric acknowledges that with her rank and role in the fight that is coming.
Ramiel Bekker. It ain’t a party unless there’s a Ghost Bear in the house! Woot woot! You cannot ignore the Ghost Bears so I decided to honor them, at least in this book, with the character of the Warbear – Ramiel Bekker. There will be more Ghost Bear hijinks in Hour of the Wolf.
This idea for Ramiel came from a fan, believe it or not. I asked for volunteers for their names to be used in the book. Stephen Peter submitted his name and a callsign “Warbear” to be included in the novel. I liked the sound of that. Not his name, but the Callsign/nickname. That got me thinking, how could I incorporate a Ghost Bear into this complex story? The Ghost Bears could not be ignored, they are a persistent bunch with deeply devoted fans. It had to be done in a way to honor the Ghost Bear fans out there, but still be organic to the characters and the story. I loved the concept I arrived at but it took some time to decide who Ramiel Bekker really was as a character. Ramiel is the eternal skeptic…bitter about being ripped from the Ghost Bears. Everyone acts like being a bondsman is a simple transition. Personally I struggle with the concept, as you will see in Hour of the Wolf. Bekker shows it is heart-wrenching and conflicted. When he comes around you realize just how important Alaric is to Clan Wolf.
Ramiel is a tactical genius beyond compare. Putting him in his Trial of Possession against Alaric, a strategic genius, offers some wonderful contrast. What is better to have, superior strategy or tactics?
That led me to flesh out his background. Having him come from Angela Bekker’s gene pool (Roar of Honor) was a nod to the fan community as well. A lot of fans love that book, a few rabidly. Ramiel is a sequel to Angela Bekker. Ramiel has a big role to play in Hour of the Wolf, so a lot of this is foundational character building in this book. Ramiel Bekker is not just a former Ghost Bear, he was their best Ghost Bear.
Haake Sukhanov. I had always planned on Alaric bringing in a Snow Raven ristar into his fold. I have always felt that the Snow Ravens were short-changed in terms of fiction. Haake’s character was there from the beginning of my thinking, going right back to the first brainstorming session at GenCon in 2017. The Wolves are good, but Alaric knows that to win, you need a dream team of sorts. He does so going far beyond Clan Wolf, which is remarkable all on its own. That separates him from Malvina…she is all about herself. If you are going to fight in space, get the best of the Snow Ravens to help you do it. Even in his relative youth, Alaric is planning Terra’s conquest. The fact that he does not delude himself into thinking he can do it alone is remarkable when you contrast it against Malvina or Devlin Stone. Perhaps he did not inherit that from his mother?
Haake is a great character in that Alaric seduces him with the ultimate temptation – to go to Terra and take it. Alaric plans on a zero-g fight but is stunned to have to fight Haake in a ‘Mech. Alaric makes mistakes. Haake quickly becomes a true believer along with Chance. He has a great moment or two coming up in Hour that you are going to love. The time for the Snow Raven’s to shine has come, under the auspices of Clan Wolf!
Paul Moon. The arc of the Fidelis/Smoke Jaguars is complicated and cool. Paul shares a lot in relatively few words. For folks that read Divided We Fall and Rock of the Republic, you finally get one more vital piece of that story. The time has come for the Smoke Jaguars to prowl the stars once more! Moon strikes a bargain, one with a heavy price. Some of his people will remain Fidelis. Others will start a new road, back to becoming a full Clan again. Paul Moon as a unique perspective of his people’s place in history and how they got there…betrayed by everyone. He harbors no ill will, which says a great deal about him as a man. Moon tells Alaric all about the defenses of Terra and that Devlin Stone has returned. Moreover, he lays the foundation for the possible return of the Smoke Jaguars. Moon’s saga is coming to an end, as we saw in Surrender Your Dreams. Sidebar: No one will give credit to the fact that I got the year right for the downfall of the Republic in Surrender Your Dreams.
Anastasia Kerensky. As a writer, Anastasia is a hard character to write about. Some of her early appearances, she is erratic and difficult to follow. She mellowed under the pen of KevinKilliany in the Wolf Hunters. Steven Mohan Jr. and Loren Coleman has his own interpretation of her, as do other authors. Some of these characterizations conflict. I’m not criticizing the other authors, but the most consistent thing about her is that she is one of the best warriors of this generation.
So, how did I handle her as a character? I took the best of all of these great writers and carved out my own path with her. Anastasia is core to some of the best scenes in his book. Her and Chance at the spaceport, and her getting her orders from Alaric. Both know Alaric differently. Anastasia tries to punch Chance’s buttons and succeeds. Was that wise?
My underlying thought was simple: When you have a precision instrument of war, you need to use her just right. Anastasia is not a blunt object. And we see in this book, she has a mission of her own that is as important as Marotta Kerensky’s…going to attempt to lure back the Wolves in Exile…or what is left of them.
Spurlock Conners. The Watch never gets the light of day in fiction. Alaric uses his intelligence service in a way that no other Clansman has done before. He wages a war of counterintelligence. Alaric manipulates his enemies, feeds them misinformation. Compare that to Malvina who uses it to spy on her own people. We all love good spy commanders, and Spurlock is a great. He will move and operate in ways that no one can anticipate.
Garner Kerensky. So, here’s the deal. Prior to this novel, Garner just ups and disappears in a sourcebook, with Anastasia taking his place. No explanation – just sourcebook speculation. I hate that shit sometimes in our universe. So I decided not to have him die off, but go on a secret mission. That was the plan from day one. I came up with the idea for the plan in 2017 – he was going after the McKenna’s Pride and General Kerensky. Then I was told the Pride was still in the homeworlds. So, I said, “Let’s go get it!” That became Icons of War, which dovetails into this story.
Garner as a character is a lot of fun. He’s older that Alaric. He’s old school Clan Wolf, while Alaric is more hip and groovy. Garner is not quite that old guy, yelling at the kids to get off his lawn, but you could see that in his future. What I like about Garner is that he wants to win the battle for Terra and is willing to change how he thinks to achieve that goal.
Stephanie Chistu. If you want to understand the dichotomy of the Jade Falcons, you need to look at Chistu and Malvina. Malvina hates Stephanie because Stephanie refuses to drink from the Mongol Doctrine ceremonial beer mug. Stephanie understands her precarious position but dances on the fine edge of that blade perfectly. Chistu dances to her own tune. She knows just how far she can press Malvina – which is remarkable on its own.
Alaric reaching out to her – and then providing her with the way to penetrate Fortress Republic is fun on a bun. Alaric wants to get inside the head of Malvina and does so masterfully. He pits Malvina against one of her best Galaxy Commanders with nothing more than a short conversation. She gives us a great view into Malvina Hazen that is the most accurate of all.
Khalus Pryde. A strong Pryde character is needed…hell, required. During the summit where we changed the original cut of this book, Loren insisted on a neat Pryde character that would be in the Jade Falcons. Like Stephanie Chistu, Khalus is that character and so much more. He has far too much of Aiden Pryde in him, and against Malvina, that is dangerous. He walks a risky path, just like Stephanie, but a different one. Where Stephanie weighs political implications, he does not. His arc is fascinating as well, though less-so in this book.
The McKenna’s Pride. Believe it or not, ships are characters. Look at Star Trek and the USS Enterprise. Garner brought back the McKenna’s Pride and General Aleksandr Kerensky. That is a glorious quest worthy of any Clan character and certainly a saKhan. We don’t see much of that ship in this story, but her mere presence is as important as any human character. The Pride is a precious icon as most major battleships are (Examples: HMS Victory, the USS New Jersey). It has played a part in the BattleTech universe for a long time. The last time I used the ship was in Betrayal of Ideals. Craig Reed’s excellent book dives deeper into how that ship came back. Trust me, the old girl as a few tricks up her skirt still.
Given the wealth of stuff written about Alaric and Malvina, you might think it hard to bring up these characters in the past. After all, we have never heard of Chance, Haake, or Ramiel before this book. It is not retcon. It is new information. They were there the whole time, working on a secret invasion plan. You never heard of them before because they didn’t factor in the preceding novels. Alaric, in particular, has been planning this his entire life…just in secret. He is not your typical Clan leader, especially given his DNA. We needed some outstanding characters for the new era too, so introducing them now was important. All I have done is fill in the space between the lines, played in the areas that were not covered elsewhere.
In my next blog post, I will explore a few of the things you may have missed. Stay tuned! Post your comments.