“Sweet Mother of Stalin!”A Review of Nick Web’s ‘Constitution’

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Review by Curtis Cole

                Sweet mother of Stalin. Those are the words which appear in the opening pages of Nick Weber’s “Constitution”, the first book in the Legacy Fleet trilogy. Spoken by Captain Disraeli out on border patrol, he less than enjoys the laugh of his first officer, since he muses on whether it would save him some suffering to “just end it all” (70[1]) with his .45 blaster. You know what they say about tight spaces and monotony…

More to the point, however, it is more likely that the charming Captain is fed-up with patrolling a seemingly empty border: after all, the so-called Swarm, those dastardly alien life-forms with a hive-mind mentality which came out of nowhere and slaughtered hundreds of millions of people, have not been seen for nearly a century. Not since the first “Swarm War.” Seems like a waste of time cruising along, acting as an early alert system should the evocatively named “Cumrats[2]” return and eject themselves into the body politic.

Such a thought would appear like a safe bet… but you would be wrong! Because boy oh boy, do the swarm return, and in style: Captain Disraeli’s morbid rants are cut short in the same manner of his body—vaporization. Taken by surprise, pants well beneath their ankles, the leaders of Earth’s Integrated Defense Force are thrown into chaos; the return of the Swarm also, incidentally, foretells the return of the good old days of militarist preparedness, when ships were constructed ‘right’ and Earth’s Western Aligned militaries had unlimited budgets, before the dark days when bureaucratic red-tape took over and those insidious liberal machinations from the “Eagleton Commission” stripped the war machine of its fighting capacity, filling it instead with– *gasp*– a peace dividend.

The horror!

But thank God for the communistic Swarm! Because of them the flow of cash, the precious lifeblood of the military machine, resumes, and those pesky politicians see how wrong they were to think about peace and poor people. Enter Captain Tim Granger, a rough barrel-chested veteran of the first Swarm War who is mighty upset that his prize warship, the Constitution, was scheduled for her decommission. Or at least he was upset before the second Swarm invasion reversed those pesky anti-militarist itches in a hurry. Now with a ship to prove what the old and experienced are able to do, despite being held down by a society of “vacant, immature materialists” (1125), people who see those like Tim, individuals that “have been around a hell of a long time” have now “outlived their usefulness”, are still able to contribute to society.

And so the spiel goes, on and on.

That is the gist of Nick Weber’s plot: aliens return to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting humanity; the counter-productive anti-war elements are forced to acknowledge their stupidity, while a grumpy senior citizen discontent with military command throws a tantrum every time he doesn’t get his way, all while expecting all those he works with to obey his every word. Just throw in some cliché ridden political intrigue (Russians as the ‘bad guys.’ Original!), a couple moments of Dues Ex Machina, as well as a twist or two bundled up with a burgeoning teaser for book two, and you have yourself a summary of Web’s book.

But this is just another way of saying that military science-fiction is no stranger to counterrevolution. David Weber, with his brand of ultra-conservative nationalistic-jingoism, paved the way in the early nineties for our current onslaught of reactionary sci-fi opuses, with his bourgeois feminist track the “Honor Harrington” series. From there on out the general flood of right-wing texts seen today have only proliferated; with a hefty focus on union bashing, anti-communism, ultra-individualism, and militarism, contemporary military sci-fi is a far cry from Joe Haldeman’s progressive anti-militarist, military sci-fi text “The Forever War.”

So needless to say, Nick Web will feel right at home. As with Weber, Nick plays into the Republican and Democratic Party’s speaking notes on maintaining a large military in the face of a “looming” “enemy” (simply replace “Political Islam” with “Aliens”). Page after page is filled with the urgency of maintaining a large military budget, how it is naïve and dangerous to consider Humanity’s No.1 enemy as anything but extinct, and that ultimately, the wise advice of the elders, those hardened soldiers defending humanity from an inexplicit threat, should be hailed as prophets of the true (re stable and commonsensical (re conservative)) social order, over the heads of the politically correct pencil-pushers.

By proxy, every reactionary trope is legitimated: homophobia (86, “Pixies”, another slur for the Swarm), militarism (910, 3276), conspiracy theories (2588, 3867), and capitalist dictatorship (3301), and nationalist pride, seen in the form of inter-imperialist struggle with Russia (271, 350) and, of course, the low shot against Unionized workers (4029). Many of these examples bleed into one another while many others still exist throughout the textual body. All form a web of interrelations telling a story of a society gone wrong.

I will not say that Web’s book is the most reactionary military sci-fi text I have read; that honor can go to another author (likely David Weber), but it is, and I cannot stress this enough, a backward text. Although in our postmodern age the glorification and mythologization of militarism is nothing new, either in literature or popular culture, it is a virus nonetheless. There is nothing honorable or heroic about armed combat fought in the name of maintaining exploitative regimes. Even more so in an age where Western European and American war drums beat heavily in the contemporary real-world—the one inhabited by you and I— in order to draw support for the surrounding of the Russian Federation. Web’s overt hostility to Russia, which one may suspect borders on racism, is symptomatic of a wider reactionary plague during the decay of capitalism; that of ideologues churning-out ultra-nationalistic sentiments in an increasingly neoconservative world.

If one is a fan of reactionary texts seeing the peaceful minded as fat-cats, then one can’t go wrong here, not with the enthusiasm Web has infused into his creation: for all the issues I have with Web’s book, after all, the writing is solid. Seeing as how I screeched through Constitution in but only a couple of days, I can testify that the author, if he has nothing else going for him, has an impressive grasp of language: descriptors and narration are as entertaining as the chapters are quick, and instill in the reader a “one more chapter” drive. It is merely all the more the shame that he squanders his talent beating the dead-horse of conservative anxieties.

Constitution (Book One of the Legacy Fleet trilogy)

Nick Web

323 pages[3]. Published by Nick Web. $3.99 (Kindle). 2015.

 

[1] The Ebook used for this review utilized a “location” based system of citation.

[2] Slur for the Swarm.

[3] Estimation of page numbers given by Amazon.com’s product description (Kindle edition).

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