Book Review 2009 #50: Three Unbroken

Next up, some good old fashioned AH SF set in Spaaace!


I mentioned in a review of The Dragon’s Nine Sons that Roberson’s marriage of AH science fiction with space opera in the off-planet stories of his Celestial Empire world is a tasty combination that pays dividends for the reason.
Set at about the same time as The Dragon’s Nine Sons, Three Unbroken is another novel of the Chinese-Aztec war around Mars. While the Dragon’s Nine Sons took its inspiration from “The Dirty Dozen”, the inspiration for Three Unbroken is “Band of Brothers”. In an afterword, Roberson confirms my suspicions that Ambrose’s work was a major influence on this novel.
Three Unbroken tells the story of a trio of soldiers of the Chinese military forces: a female Indian bomber pilot, a Texan infantryman and a Manchu nobleman who becomes a commando. The novel follows their stories in the War against the Aztecs on Mars until the explosive (and given that this is based on WWII, very appropriate) finale.
The novel also takes physical and thematic inspiration from the I Ching. The novel is divided into 64 chapters, one for every line of the divination device. The ideas and concepts from the I Ching are reflected in the events of each chapter. While I am not an expert on the I Ching, I did see the parallels. Roberson does a good job of lining up the events to the I Ching lines without making it seem forced.
Overall, the novels show the development of the soldiers into masters of their arts. Sticking to the mostly low level viewpoint, instead of just the Grand Strategy, Roberson shows the individual soldier’s point of view of war, and shows it well. We get some battle and action sequences for all three soldiers, too. Each of the soldiers is challenged, and learns that War is often a matter of not just grit and combat, but the Unexpected.
Once again, as I have said in other reviews of Roberson’s work, while his work might not be as literary as some other SF writers, Roberson knows how to write entertaining and interesting science fiction. Roberson writes precisely the kind of SF that I want to spend my recreational time reading. Fans of his work will be quite satisfied with Three Unbroken and I think its a good (although The Dragon Nine Sons might be slightly better) way to get introduced to his Chinese Empire AH stories and novels.