Technofiction review of

The Chaplain's Legacy

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright June 2013


Brad Torgersen, author of The Chaplain's Legacy, which appears in the July/August 2013 double issue of Analog, is a fellow LTUE panelist, Superstar Writers Seminars alum, and active Facebooker. So I've known for a couple years that he's an SF author who's made good, but this is my first opportunity to read some of his stuff.

This story is a wonderful match for Analog style. Sadly, Analog style is one I no longer enjoy.


The story setting is one of Analog's classics. It starts out on a star ship with a tense peace negotiation between humans and "mantes" -- bug-like aliens who are a bit technologically superior to humans. The protagonist is a human invited to the negotiating table because of previous invaluable experience gained with these aliens in the first story. There is betrayal, shooting starts on both sides and gets serious enough to trash the ship. It's Man the Lifeboats! time.

Our protagonist finds himself in a lifeboat with another human negotiator and two mantis negotiators, one of which is his old acquaintance from the first story in this series and the other is Queen Mother, chief negotiator. They land on a "nameless world" that was nearby.

Once on the world they have a wilderness survival adventure during which self-discovery happens, and then a final shoot-out as both humans and mantes show up to rescue them.

This much of the story is classic Analog. It could have been written just as easily in the 1940's as it could today. Torgersen does a nice job of portraying "strack" (gung-ho) military in this story, and the aliens are sufficiently alien to be interesting and believable.

The story's internal consistency breaks down when the party hits the planet surface:

o There's a planet close by? How convenient for the story teller.

o This world's climate is earth-like enough that the party can walk for days wearing only uniforms and sleeping in sleeping bags. There is even rain and running water. Yet there is no native life, not even slime, and neither humans or mantes have begun colonizing this world? So ideal for colonizing, one-in-a-million, but not taken advantage of? How strange?

o The classic trope of loosing communication. And the classic trope of trying to walk out of the situation rather than staying close to the lifeboat wreck because that will be much easier to spot and may still have some vestigial beaconing capability.

The modern twist -- the part that couldn't have been written in the 1940's -- is having some of the characters suffer from virtual reality addiction. Neat concept, I like it, it's good Technofiction, but this doesn't show up until three quarters through the story. And the story quickly moves through exploring VR addiction to get back to action and a classic cavalry comes to the rescue shoot-out and ending.

In sum, Torgersen has produced a work that fits well into the classic Analog format. It's a good action story taking place on terrain that has appeared in countless pulp fiction westerns as waterless, lifeless desert. And there's just a wee smidgen of modern twist garnishing this classic.

Wonderful! ...if you're an Analog reader. But this reminds me vividly of why I quickly gave up on reading Analog when I tried a subscription ten years ago while I was in Korea. It's way, way, too classic in formula and format for my taste.

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