David Drake

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"The use of force is always an answer to problems. Whether or not it's a satisfactory answer depends on a number of things, not least the personality of the person making the determination. Force isn't an attractive answer, though. I would not be true to myself or to the people I served with in 1970 if I did not make that realization clear."
David Drake

David Drake is one of the current gods of Military SF, along with Jerry Pournelle, S.M. Stirling, and David Weber -- in spite of not writing any military SF anymore. (Unless you count Naval Space Opera.) Known for his explicit and graphic depictions of the effects of warfare on both human bodies and human societies.

Works written by David Drake include:

David Drake is the author of several sci-fi series, and has a major fantasy series, The Lord of the Isles which finished in late 2008 with The Gods Return. Has numerous other works.

From the book jacket for The Dance of Time :

  • "Vietnam veteran, former lawyer, former bus driver, and now best-selling author..."
  • "Drake graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Iowa, majoring in history (with honors) and Latin."
  • "His stint at Duke University Law School was interrupted for two years by the U. S. Army, where he served as an enlisted interrogator with the 11th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam and Cambodia."
  • From Notes on Northworld on David Drake's website: "I made what I thought was a pointless change from my normal procedure by adding a short afterword to Northworld....Lo and behold, all the reviews of Northworld noted the intricate play of Norse myth in the novel. Well, yes; I'd precised the Elder Edda, the Prose Edda, and the Volsungensaga before I even started to plot. But I always work that way: I'd outlined all of Procopius' works save for The Buildings before I started plotting my first novel, The Dragon Lord. The only difference with Northworld was that I told the reviewers what I'd done; and, being told, they were able to see what I in my innocence had thought was obvious. Live and learn. I frequently write explanatory essays now."

Anecdote on book covers from Notes on Northworld at David Drake's website:

  • "While I was writing Northworld, Beth called to ask what the book was about because they needed to put a cover on it. I sent her a scene of people dueling in powered personal armor. Beth called back in a week. "We had a cover conference on your book," she said. "We're going to put a tank on the cover. Is there a tank in the book?" I told her that there would be, now that I'd been told about the cover. And there is."

Major Series

  • The Lt. Leary series, loosely based off the 18th century British navy, complete with spaceships that travel through hyperspace using sails. However, the sails are handled fairly realistically: stripping a ship's sails with a plasma cannon is a quick and easy way to keep it from escaping into hyperspace, the sails need to be furled and stowed before entering an atmosphere, and when deployed, interfere with the ship's realspace maneuvering and combat.
    • Also known as
      • the Republic of Cinnabar series
      • the Leary/Mundy (after the main characters) series
      • the Lt. Leary, Commanding (after the title of the second book) series.
      • The RCN Series (Republic of Cinnabar Navy) series, however, is the nomenclature Drake uses.
    • Author's note from The Way to Glory, third book in the series: "The general political background of the RCN series is that of Europe in the mid-eighteenth century, with admixtures of late-Republican Rome. (There's a surprising degree of congruence between British and Roman society in those periods.)"
    • In the same way that Honor Harrington is Hornblower/Nelson In Space, the RCN books are Patrick O'Brian In Space, with Daniel O'Leary in the role of Jack Aubrey and Adele Mundy as Stephen Maturin (only with her being the ship's comms officer rather than its surgeon). And a right deadly comms officer she is, too.
  • The Lord of the Isles: Heroic fantasy series. Ended in late 2008 with The Gods Return, which was the last of the Crown of the Isles trilogy. You read that right.
    • The last three books in the series are known as The Crown of the Isle series.
  • Hammer's Slammers - short stories about futuristic mercenaries under Colonel Alois Hammer. The toughest mercs who ever killed for a dollar. According to Word of God, partly based on the French Foreign Legion in the 1950s, when that service had a large proportion of former SS in its ranks, but also loosely based on the Vietnam-Era 11th Armored Cavalry regiment, with fusion-powered hovercraft "panzers" replacing tanks and smaller combat cars replacing M113 cavalry vehicles.
    • Several collections of short stories, Hammer's Slammers, At Any Price, The Warrior, The Tank Lords, The Butcher's Bill
    • Paying the Piper - The Macedonians against the Aetolian League In Space! Okay, on a planetary surface. (Happy now?)
    • The Sharp End - Rewrite of Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest on a Crapsack World in the Slammerverse, except that one of Colonel Hammer's contract teams serves as the collective hero.
    • Rolling Hot - The Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War retold in the Slammerverse.
    • Counting the Cost - The suppression of the Nika ('Victory') riots in Constantinople under the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 532.
    • Cross the Stars: a retelling of the Odyssey In Space with former Slammer Major Donald 'Mad Dog' Slade as the Odysseus character. Colonel Hammer plays Zeus off-screen.
    • The Voyage: Re-write of the Jason and the Argonauts myth in the Slammerverse. The Jason character is female. The nephew of 'Mad Dog' Slade from Cross the Stars is the viewpoint character. Colonel Hammer again is cast as Zeus, but with only a brief message as an appearance.
  • The General series with S. M. Stirling. (This is not his Belisarius Series. See the next entry.) A retelling of the life of the Byzantine General Belisarius in a sci-fi setting on a world after the fall of civilization. The world, Bellevue, has rebuilt itself to approximately 1900 technology. Aka the Raj Whitehall series, and the Raj Whitehall and Center series. After the fifth book (The Sword in 1995) the stories shifted to other worlds.
    • The Chosen - World War 1.5 on another world. Crammed with references to real-world military events. "The Chosen" themselves are expies of Stirling's own Draka.
    • The Reformer and The Tyrant continued on yet another world in the same Universe with Raj existing as a computer simulation. This time it's the Roman Civil War(?). The Tyrant was co-written with Eric Flint in 2002 and seemed to have ended the series until...
    • The Heretic, co-written with Tony Daniel, came out in 2013. The setting here is geographically reminiscent of ancient Egypt, although there's no enormous resemblance in the society. Complicating matters is that another computer like Center, but not as advanced, is maintaining "Stasis" by periodically encouraging barbarian invasions. Concluded by The Savior.
  • The Belisarius Series with Eric Flint. The life of the Byzantine General Belisarius as an alternate history, where the two great powers from the far future have each sent an emissary to alter the past in Belisarius' lifetime.
  • Northworld series. Northworld, Northworld Vengeance, and Northworld Justice. Retelling of selected Norse Mythology as sci fi using powered armor. The name's a pun: North for a cold world like the frozen north of Norse myth ("Norse" itself probably ultimately derived from Middle Dutch nort for, what else, "north."). Also for "North's World" because the books' Expy of Odin is named North; he commanded a team sent to explore the planet.
  • The Reaches: Igniting the Reaches, Through the Breach, and Fireships. Set a thousand years after the collapse of an interstellar government, and based on the period when Spanish and British exploration and exploitation were colliding in the New World, with particular inspiration from the exploits of Sir Francis Drake (no relation). The planet Venus fills the role of Britain (ruled by Governor Halys), while Spain is played by the Canada-based government of North America.
    • The first book mentions (in a derogatory way) the mostly-disregarded "authority" of the Administration of Humanity, based in Brisbane, Australia. Despite its secular title, it appears to be playing the part that the Papacy did in history.

Selected Other Works

  • Ranks of Bronze: The campaigns of a Republican-period Roman Legion captured by aliens and surviving as a mercenary army used on low-tech planets.
  • Patriots: Sci-fi retelling of Ethan Allen's capture of the British Fort Ticonderoga during the American Revolutionary War.
    • From David Drake's website: "There were other interesting things about Allen. While unquestionably violent, neither he nor the violent men under his command killed anybody. That's really remarkable. Taking Allen as a model, I wrote a book in which nobody is killed (which a lot of people will find remarkable also)."
    • In the book the Ethan Allen character was described as the type of person who could charge into machine gun fire and survive. This made him dangerous to be around, because the people around him would still get slaughtered.

"I've met his type before."
"Type? He's a type?"
"Like the Mars Diamond is a type. It's just that all the others aren't flawless and weigh 32 pounds."

    • The Crowning Moment of Funny in Patriots is when the Expy of Benedict Arnold is tricked into running into a room ... and falling into a deep pit toilet. After he's fished out of the liquid crap, a recording of all this will be used to blackmail him into not betraying the main characters (something so embarrassing would kill his chances of seeking political office).

"Holy sh--" Finch screamed.
There was a loud plop. A brown geyser spouted above the floor and sank back.

  • The Books Of The Elements: Ancient Rome With Magic! Except that the name "Rome" is replaced with "Carce," a nod to The Worm Ouroboros. Other place, ethnic, and in some cases personal names remain the same; so for instance, Gaius Julius Caesar was a great Carcean general who defeated the Gauls and became dictator. Though the Emperor's name is never stated, references to him being very paranoid and spending most of his time in a villa on the island of Capri, together with an Author's Note comparing the events to those of 30 A.D., make him clearly based on Tiberius.
  • Redliners: Science fiction story of a burnt out elite unit assigned to guard involuntary colonists on a Death World. In a weird way, it mixes a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming with High Octane Nightmare Fuel by taking War Is Hell to its logical conclusion--what do you do with, and how can you help, the Shell-Shocked Veteran, when the war is over?
  • The Forlorn Hope: Sci-fi foreign mercenaries fight their way out of encirclement and then fight their way off-world when their employers betray them. Xenophon's Anabasis a.k.a. The March Up Country Recycled in Space.
  • All the Way to the Gallows: Gallows-humor short stories. Includes
    • "Mom and the Kids" with Larry Niven.
    • "The Noble Savages", a sci-fi sendup about special operations police operating under Political Correctness Gone Mad.
    • "A Very Offensive Weapon" is a novella in which fantasy quest tropes are mercilessly slaughtered. Includes a reference to the saying, "If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed will come to the mountain": there's a mountain moving through the desert, occasionally moaning, "Mohammed...." It's trying to come to him!
  • Vettius and Friends: Short stories of gritty fantasy around the time of Ancient Rome.
  • Killer: Alien-like aliens come up against a retired veteran of the Roman Gladiatorial games. Veteran trained killer vs natural born killers. Think Predator vs Aliens without the sci-fi equipment.
  • The Dragon Lord: Gritty retelling of the story of King Arthur; Drake described the personality of his Arthur as a cross between Alexander the Great and Adolf Hitler.
    • This novel was originally intended as a pastiche novel of Robert E. Howard's historical adventure character Cormac Mac Art. Drake re-wrote it when the pastiche was declined.
  • The Spark: Another retelling of Arthurian legends, this time following the collapse of an ultra-technological civilization, which has left reality itself warped. The equivalent of wizards are "Makers" who can somehow see into the internal structures of surviving technological artifacts and figure out how to rebuild or even improve them. Much more idealistic than The Dragon Lord or Northworld; Drake himself described it as a culture that's attempting to make itself better and more decent. A second book, The Storm, is scheduled for release January 2019.

Full Bibliography at David Drake's website. Not quite up to date at the time of this writing (Mar, 2009).

David Drake provides examples of the following tropes:
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Many, perhaps most of Drake's books feature at least some degree of this. His heroes are admirable in some ways, but almost never in all ways; they often express and act on attitudes and values which Drake, in Author's Notes, calls "very regrettable."
    • In The Reaches, the first book's viewpoint character is disgusted by the way Americans allow women "in positions of danger" including as starship crews; it "would be offensive to any decent man." Several of the other "good guys" display a strictly intolerant Protestantism that won't accept Catholics as fellow Christians at all. The narrator of the second book has to restrain a subordinate from murdering a woman because her response to very good news was to exclaim, "Oh, thank God!" and kiss the crucifix she held. How dare she display her idol-worship in front of Christians!
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Adele Mundy from the RCN Series, Joachim Steuben from Hammer's Slammers, Hussein ben Mehdi from The Forlorn Hope, Stephen Gregg from The Reaches.... And that's not counting how, in The General and its follow-ons, Center can augment someone's marksmanship to levels that leave hardened soldiers staring in awe.
  • Man-Eating Plant / When Trees Attack: Drake has a rather phobic thing about killer plants. In particular, The Jungle and Redliners both feature lots of trees, bushes, grasses, and fungi that will try to kill you in one way or another. There are several different ways a tree can kill in Redliners, including exploding to fling out armor-piercing spikes, spraying those who come too close with a fast-hardening (and acidic) sap, the bark turning out to be tentacles.... Few of the non-tree plants can swallow you whole, but they'll sure suck the nutrients out of you. The vampire honeysuckle in The Jungle is Nightmare Fuel -- literally so for a character whose Catapult Nightmare seems to have psychically linked him to one of its victims. Several people in this and other books die because plant life grew into and through their flesh while they slept.
  • The Quiet One: Tovera, Adele Mundy's aide. Subverted in that she's a tiny female. So self-effacing that in Lt. Leary, Commanding, police responding to murderous violence at a society garden party ignore her, despite the fact that she's holding a sub-machine gun. Deadlier than her mistress, the Badass Bookworm. Much deadlier.
  • Occasionally drops Shout-Outs to modern culture into his work. A punning one was in The Sharp End when a ship from the Marvelan Confederacy was known as the Argent Server.
  • Take That: Critic Charles Platt described Hammer's Slammers as, to quote Drake's summary, "queasy voyeurism," and said that if David Drake had ever seen war, he wouldn't write such things. Drake is a Vietnam veteran; see the quote at the top of the page. If you're a character in one of Drake's books and your name is "Platt," about the best you can hope for is to be stupid; financial corruption and/or unsavory sexual tastes may feature as well.