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Tin Men by Christopher Golden
Cover Artist: Mike Bryan
Review by Ernest Lilley
Ballantine Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345548856
Date: 23 June 2015 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Read M. Jacob's Review / Show Official Info /

In the not too distant future, Pax America has spread over the globe at the hands of the Tin Men, robot drone soldiers that can outfight any human and are as hard to kill as a tank.

With their operators safely stashed in underground bases, their bodies tended by tubes and technicians until their shifts end, robo-death has no sting. The Tin Men are nearly indestructible, nearly incorruptible, and globally resented.

The world may be at peace, thanks to US intervention, but that doesn't mean it's happy about it.

Kate Wade and Danny Kelso are part of the Alpha Team assigned with thirty four other Tin Men to patrol Damascus and keep it safe and sane. The US has deployed thousands of robotic solders around the world to shut down conflicts and enforce a golden age of peace, but what it's really accomplished is to amp up the resentment of those under the heel of our oppression, no matter how benevolent we think it is, and that resentment is going to break out, even if it means plunging the world into a new stone age.

Thanks to a global electromagnetic pulse attack, the whole world goes dark in an instant. Ironically, one of the few pieces of EMP hardened technology still functioning are the Tin Men, but their satellite communications are deader than a doornail, which makes them wonder why they're not all waking up in their coffins back home.

All too soon they realize that they've been had. Tin Men arenít actually drones at all, but cybernetic bodies with uploaded minds and the bodies back home are empty shells on life support. Suddenly being in a drone isn't as cozy as it used to be.

Unlike other EMPocolypse stories, the focus here isn't on the billions of people who find themselves suddenly without power, but on the handful of Tin Men that Kate and Danny are with. It turns out that the bad guys had a multi-prong approach to apocalypse, and along with shutting down the grid and burning out everything with semiconductors in it, they've armed anarchist cells across the globe with shoulder mounted robot-killer RPGs. You can't kill a robot with a high caliber round, unless you can put three consecutive shots on their single sweet spot, but one hit from these babies and you've got toasted Tobor.

To make things interesting, we've also got along three regular old, humans. The US Ambassador, Alexa, his spunky 17 year old daughter, who had the misfortune of coming to visit just before the end of the world, and the somewhat worse for wear leader of the Damascus terror cell, in case the president wants to have a chat with him. That gives us a pretty good mix of characters and ideologies.

Thanks to the RPGs, our squad rapidly shrinks from three dozen to a handful, but that doesn't stop them from coming up with a new mission, when they learn from a captured terrorist that the attack was timed to match a G20 summit in Greece so that they could take out all the world leaders in one shot. Knowing that they may be the only US military force with the Intel and a shot at reaching Athens, Kate and the crew take off for the Israeli coast in hopes of scoring a fast sailboat.

So our team takes off for Athens to save what's left of the world, pursued by a well-armed terrorist horde out to scrap their plan, to say nothing of their metal hides, fueled by personal hatred and desire for revenge.

I liked the characters and I liked the action, but the central concept, that you could upload a mind over satellite communications and get it back the same way when a bot goes down made me shake my head. Okay, I could give you a certain amount of memory transfer, but the idea that your meat body was suddenly empty just doesn't make sense. Granted that it was crucial to the way the story was written, but it could have been otherwise. For a small fee I'd be happy to lay out the alternate plot. No? Okay then, we'll make the most of Tin Men as it is.

The final verdict is that Tin Men is a good read, but not great mil-SF.

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