|Cover artist||Paul Alexander|
|Genre||Military science fiction|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Pages||273 pp (Paperback edition)|
|Preceded by||None (first in the series)|
|Followed by||Cross the Stars|
Hammer's Slammers is a 1979 collection of military science fiction short stories by author David Drake. It follows the career of a future mercenary tank regiment called Hammer's Slammers after their leader, Colonel Alois Hammer. This collection, and other novels and stories in the same setting, are collectively called the Hammer stories, and the setting is called the Slammers universe or the Hammerverse.
Each of the stories in the novel follows various members of the Slammers, starting with the regiment's creation by the government of the planet Friesland to put down a revolt on the Friesland colony world of Melpomene, in which Colonel Hammer is the focal character, and who transforms the unit into an independent mercenary organization. The reader is also introduced to recurring characters such as Joachim Steuben, Hammer's bodyguard and later commander of the Slammers' military police, a gay sociopath and master marksman devoted to his colonel; Sergeant (later Major) Danny Pritchard; recruit (later Sergeant-Commander) Rob Jenne; Margritte DiManzio, whose husband is killed by mercenaries from a different regiment and signs on with the Slammers; and Sergeant "Ripper Jack" Scratchard, who shows how the Slammers infantry ties in with the regiment's combat cars and hovertanks. The book concludes with the story "Standing Down," in which Friesland revolutionaries hire the Slammers to overthrow the government of Friesland. Colonel Hammer takes over the revolution and the planet, becomes President of Friesland, and Hammer's unit becomes the 1st Regiment of the Friesland Defense Force.
Drake based the Slammers on his service with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam and Cambodia during the Vietnam War. The plots of his works are often inspired by historical or mythological sources. For example, he retells the story of Jason and the Argonauts in The Voyage, and part of the Odyssey in Cross the Stars. Other stories borrow from pulp-era fiction (The Sharp End is based on Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest).
The novel is split into a series of short stories which follow various characters and their interactions with the Hammer's Slammers regiment. After each short story is an interlude chapter. These chapters form short essays that Drake uses to expand up the world of the Hammerverse.
But Loyal To His Own
The first story follows Colonel Hammer himself, as well as introducing Joachim Steuben, his right-hand man and bodyguard. It opens with a conversation between Secretary Tromp, a powerful politician from the wealthy planet Friesland, and a Friesland Guards armored regiment officer, in Tromp's office at the spaceport hotel on the Friesland colony world of Melpomene. The officer has just returned from traveling with Hammer and Steuben in a convoy of armored vehicles from one of Hammer's firebases to the spaceport. Hammer had used the convoy as bait to trick the remaining Melpomene rebels into attempting an ambush on the convoy, by leaking false information that Secretary Tromp was traveling in it.
In the meantime, Hammer is in the hotel lounge, where he confronts a former fellow senior officer from the Guards, who is incensed that Hammer had left the unit to command "foreign scum." He is then summoned to Tromp's office, but he orders Steuben and another of his men to wait in their hotel suite. During a heated discussion between Hammer and Tromp, it is revealed to the reader that Hammer's Regiment (the "Slammers") was originally Tromp's idea. After several Friesland units were unable to suppress Melpomene resistance to Friesland's attempt to control the production and export of "bluebright" (a valuable pharmaceutical plant and the main product of the planet), Hammer was directed to form a mercenary regiment and recruit non-Friesland individuals with military experience. This unit was then funded and equipped by Friesland to crush the Melpomene rebels, which they have done successfully by various means, including chemical warfare and forcing Melpomene hostages to ride on Slammers' convoys to prevent ambushes.
It is also revealed that as one of the conditions in recruiting for the regiment, the government promised that all Slammers personnel would be granted full Friesland citizenship after completing their service on Melpomene, and the regiment would be demobilized. However, Tromp reneges on this, and orders Hammer to bring the entire mercenary regiment to the spaceport, where it will be disbanded under the supervision of the Guards, who have been brought to Melpomene by Tromp for that purpose. Hammer, unwilling to have his men disarmed (and most likely executed afterwards), attempts to change Tromp's mind by suggesting that Friesland hire out the Slammers to other planets. Tromp is unmoved by this argument, stating that this would destabilize the current interstellar political system, and that Hammer should remember his loyalty to Friesland, which is more important that any promises he made to his own men. Angered, Hammer leaves Tromp's office for his hotel suite; having anticipated Tromp's betrayal, he sends a prearranged signal to his Slammers.
As soon as Hammer leaves his office, Tromp dispatches a Guards team under the command of Hammer's enemy to the hotel suite to arrest or kill Hammer and the two men with him. However, Steuben and the other Slammer are expecting the Guards and kill all but one of them, while Hammer steps off the elevator and kills the last Guard as he attempts to escape down the corridor. The Slammers tanks and artillery in the hills around the spaceport have started destroying the poorly dug-in Guards armored vehicles, exposed on the open spaceport field. As the Slammers' tanks close in on the spaceport, Tromp flees through artillery fire to his waiting spaceship. However, Steuben has anticipated this, and is already waiting for Tromp inside. The story ends with Tromp looking at Steuben's hands, not believing that his slim wrists could possibly support the weight of the heavy pistol he holds.
Drake uses this short chapter to explain the nature of tank warfare in the future as well as how the tanks of the Hammer's Slammers regiment work. He details how the hovercraft technology that keeps the air cushion tanks afloat works as well as the anti personnel defences of the tanks, including the outward facing directional mines that line the upper hulls.
The Butcher's Bill
Of the story chapters, this is one of the shortest. The tank commander, Danny Pritchard is introduced. He is presented as being apathetic towards war. On the planet Dunstan Hammer's Slammers are fighting for the government and Danny Pritchard is becoming romantically involved with one of their representatives, a young woman named Sonna. After a short skirmish, Pritchard's section makes camp in a rural area of Dunstan. Sonna invites Pritchard out for a ride to show him something. They take a skimmer, low laying hover-vehicles designed for infantry, to a nearby structure made of an opaque, yet glass-like material. Pritchard is urged to enter by Sonna and when he enters, he finds the inside presents him with various images of strange and alien creatures, bird-like in appearance; Sonna explains they are an alien race named the Gedel. Shaken, he leaves the ruin and Sonna explains that the Gedel were a race capable of creating many wonders and this ruin is just one of many scattered over Dunstan. Pritchard seems uncaring and uninterested in the nature of the race, especially if the presence of their creations does not directly help his regiment. After decamping, the tank section becomes engaged in another fight, on the edge of a city seemingly made of irreplaceable Gedel structures. Despite Sonna's protestations, Pritchard allows the use of the tanks' heavy ordnance in order to flush out the enemy. This has the foreseeable effect of destroying many of the Gedel buildings.
Interlude: The Church of the Lord's Universe
This interlude chapter explains the main faith of humanity in the future. An evolution of Christianity, the Universalist Church espouses that truth can be found by following the via stellarum (way of the stars). This focus on space travel helped early human colonisers and is the reason that many characters in the stories use the word "via" as an expletive.
Under the Hammer
New recruit Rob Jenne undergoes a baptism of fire on his first day.
The notional science behind the weaponry used by Hammer's tanks.
A Slammer outpost is attacked by the indigenous aliens.
Interlude: Backdrop to Chaos
The political and social background to the Hammerverse.
Caught in the Crossfire
Margritte DiManzio joins the Slammers.
Interlude: The Bonding Authority
The financial organisation of mercenary warfare/
Danny Pritchard has a crisis of conscience.
Interlude: Table of Organisation and Equipment, Hammer's Regiment
List of units in the Slammers.
The Slammers seize power in Friesland.
Lynn Bryant reviewed Hammer's Slammers in Space Gamer/Fantasy Gamer No. 83. Bryant commented that "All in all there is a gritty feel to these novels that make you feel they show how life really would be if there ever are interstellar mercenaries."
- Hammer's Slammers: The Crucible - Official Website (A Hammer's Slammers game)
- Baen's "The Hammer's Slammers Handbook"[permanent dead link]
- Hammer's Slammers title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
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