|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 Hammer's Regiment in one campaign, starting with how and why the government of Friesland raised the outfit as an auxiliary regiment to put down a revolt on a Friesland colony planet named Melpomene, in which Colonel Hammer is the focal character, and who changes the outfit from a Friesland regiment to an independent mercenary organization. The reader is also introduced to recurring characters like Joachim Steuben, a gay sociopath and master marksman devoted to his colonel; Sergeant (later Major) Danny Prichard; 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 Regiment becomes the 1st Regiment of the Friesland Defense Force.
Drake based the Hammer's Slammers on his service with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam and Cambodia in 1970, however Drake also borrows plots from historical or mythological sources for many of the Hammer's Slammers stories as with his other work. 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 Hammer himself, as well as introducing Joachim Steuben, his right hand man and personal body guard. Colonel Hammer rails against the military choices made by the politician, secretary Tromp. During a face to face discussion with Tromp in his personal offices, it is revealed that the Slammer's regiment was created by the Freisland government to help control the export of 'bluebright', a rare plant and main trade commodity of Freisland. It is also revealed that as part of allowing Hammer to form the regiment, the government agreed that all members of the Slammers would be granted full citizenship of Freisland once its usefulness had ended and Hammer gave the order for it to disband. It becomes obvious however, that Tromp, as a representative of Freisland government does not wish to follow through on their half of the deal and instead will covertly have members of the regiment arrested and executed. Colonel Hammer returns to his quarters angered at the situation. Tromp dispatches a team to have Hammer murdered but they find Hammer's own men in wait, Joachim amongst them. The Slammers' men kill Tromp and Hammer sends out a preprared order to his tanks, revealing he had foreseen Tromp's betrayal. The tanks batter the compound and Tromp's and Hammer's men engage in open combat. The story ends with the Slammers in a victorious position and with Tromp fleeing the compound to a waiting aircraft to take him away. Aboard the aircraft, Joachim is waiting and the chapter closes with Joachim pulling his pistol and ending Tromp's life. This treatment by the Freisland government is what causes Hammer's Slammers to become a true mercenary regiment.
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 personal 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, a 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 ordinance 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.
- "Hammer's Slammers". david-drake.com. 1 May 2010. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
- Hammer's Slammers: The Crucible - Official Website (A Hammer's Slammers game)
- Baen's "The Hammer's Slammers Handbook"
- Hammer's Slammers title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
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