Fitzpatrick's War


Theodore Judson


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

December 1, 2009

bout the time I reached page 300 of this novel, I had really grown to dislike it. I had a pile of enticing books waiting to be read in the stack next to my bed, why was I was wasting my time on this one? How can a book with zeppelins on the cover be so bad? I thought this was going to be an adventure novel, a tale of derring-do, narrow escapes and imaginative plot twists. Instead, I got a dull memoir from a spineless man. Three hundred pages into this novel and still Fitzpatrick's war had not begun and Fitzpatrick himself stayed mostly off stage.

Instead of Fitzpatrick, this novel revolves around a "low born" character named Robert Bruce. Unlike the other aristocrats at school, Bruce is commoner, only admitted to the elite military academy for his exceptional ability in previous wars (details of his previous military career are left vague). This novel purports to be Robert Bruce's autobiography, he will describe what really happened in Fitzpatrick's War, and he promises to set the record straight about Fitzpatrick.

Alas, instead of becoming a general and engaged in battles and strategy, Robert Bruce is a civil engineer and we get LONG and TEDIOUS descriptions about building air bases in India. Even though the novel claims to be set in the 25th century, the technology level is about equal to 19th century England. Due to "The Storm Wars", electricity has failed and everything is crudely powered by steam engines, (apparently electricity is suppressed because of a secret device run by the Timermen on an island in the Pacific.) I wondered - if electricity doesn't work, how do the nerve impulses fire inside the human body? There are steam cars, steam trains, even a steam driven film projector. If Judson needs a bit of technology in his future society, he merely adds the "steam" prefix to the word. For example, Major Bruce takes a pointless flight with a daredevil stunt pilot of a "steam" airplane. I wondered how the steam powered plane kept the boilers burning as the pilot took the craft through a wild series of dives, loops and rolls. How could a steam engine possibly deliver enough power for such a plane?

Judson shows little imagination in describing Earth 400 years in the future - the map of the 25th century is apparently nearly identical to our current political boundaries with the exception that the Yukon clan rules the area that is present day USA + Canada. The other nations - China, India, Mexico, Turkey all seem to exist on the map just where they are today.

In addition to living with technology equal to 19th century England, the Yukons also have adopted 19th century culture from the Victorian British era. There are lords, dukes, ladies. There is a Parliament and there are knights. There is a rigid class system where the wealthy aristocrats abuse the "lowborn". The society is racist and religiously intolerant and misogynistic. Why would the Yukons in the 25th century decide to live like the Victorians of the 19th century? Imagine if we, living in the 21st century, decided to model our civilization after that 15th century English society. It would be like attending a Renaissance Faire and deciding it was so much fun that we all should live a few centuries in the past.

Eventually Fitzpatrick's War begins, though Fitz himself is not present. A huge army of Chinese soldiers hurl themselves forward at the Yukon's fortified position. Armed with superior firepower, we watch the Yukons slaughter tens of thousands, if not millions of men. Does Judson expect us to be thrilled by this bloodshed? Horrified? I was bored. It seemed like Judson had read some battle descriptions from WWI and decided he would describe his own version of Verdun, but on a scale that was magnitudes greater.

How is the Yukon army able to withstand this incredible Chinese assault? They have a secret weapon up in orbit! A society called the Timerman have super powerful telescopes that enable them to monitor the entire surface of the earth. These telescopes are so good that the Timerman can spot individual airplanes flying to attack! Clouds, smoke and darkness do not impeded these astral monitors. Since there is no electricity, the Timerman transmit their information down to the Yukon forces by blinking out message in morse code using brilliant lights (imagine the power of a light visible from orbit in the middle of the day!) For some reason, the Chinese are too stupid to observe these blinking lights and decode the Morse code themselves.

Once the Chinese army is destroyed, Fitzpatrick unleashes a horde of super locusts on the Chinese lands. The locusts eat absolutely everything, so that all food sources are destroyed and the Chinese nation starves to death. It is genocide on an epic scale. Why does Fitzpatrick do this to the Chinese? Why didn't he do it the Mexicans? Unexplained. Shouldn't the locusts have been unleashed BEFORE their army could mobilize? It would have saved us the WWI style massacres.

The worst part about this novel is Robert Bruce's wife Charlotte. Charlotte is portrayed as such a paragon of virtue and saintliness that it becomes painful to read. Charlotte is wonderfully beautiful. Charlotte is incredibly kind and insightful. Charlotte always does the right thing. However, Charlotte constantly belittles Bruce. A typical conversation goes something like this: "We must feed these poor starving native children!" said Charlotte. "But we can not feed endless numbers of these colored waifs!" said Bruce. "You will do as I say, you stupid man, or I will take an action that will humilate before your peers. I will embarrass you and ruin your career" said Charlotte. "Okay, you are so sweet to point out the error of my ways. I am such an ignorant clod. Will you dance with me?" replied the spineless Bruce.

I kept expecting that a transformation in Robert Bruce would occur - at some point he would develop a backbone and stand up for something. But he never does. Bruce constantly laments about all the BAD THINGS he has done in the name of Fitzpatrick, but he never quits. His entire career is one of devote service to a genocidal madman. To the end, Robert Bruce has the spine of jellyfish.

There are no appealing characters in this novel. There is no believable world building. The novel is devoid of imagination. The pace is incredibly slow. It seems to be intended as a condemnation of the British empire. I can't believe I read this whole book. What a waste of time, even if does have a cool picture of zeppelins on the cover.