Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. This Week’s Book Review – The Best of Jerry Pournelle

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘The Best of Jerry Pournelle’ a must have for readers

By MARK LARDAS

Nov 30, 2019

“The Best of Jerry Pournelle,” edited by John F. Carr, Baen Books, 2019, 576 pages, $16

Jerry Pournelle was one of the great science fiction authors of the late 20th century. A Korean War veteran, he was a Renaissance man excelling in numerous fields. He brought that knowledge into his science fiction writing. He died a year ago.

“The Best of Jerry Pournelle” edited by John F. Carr is the inevitable “best of” book after an author’s death. Do not ignore it on that basis. Unlike many “best of” books, this one is worth the admission price.

John F. Carr was Pournelle’s longtime editorial assistant and eventual collaborator. The two edited several series of science fiction anthologies and co-authored many books together. Few know Pournelle’s literary accomplishments better.

The book contains 22 stories by Pournelle and essays about the man by his literary friends and collaborators. Several of the Pournelle stories appear for the first time in this collection, or are the first republication of stories unavailable for decades (in one case nearly 50 years).

Are they the “best” stories Pournelle wrote? That can be argued because he wrote so much good fiction, but if they’re not his best, they’re runners-up. And the original and first-time republications are all gems.

Virtually all of Pournelle’s series are visited in this book. There are samples from his Co-Dominium stories, which predicted a coalition between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Laurie Jo Hansen stories, the Nuclear General series, and pieces relating to Lucifer’s Hammer and the Legacy of Heriot.

Several are set in a future we have reached already. Surprisingly, Pournelle’s futures are considerably darker than today’s realities. He extrapolated forward from the predictions of the doomsayers of the 1970s to show how their predictions could be overcome.

The future refused to cooperate with the doomsayers, leaving us a cleaner, better-fed, and less crime-ridden world, one Pournelle helped shape. Yet, Pournelle accurately predicted what could’ve happened had doomsayers been heeded, a warning increasingly relevant today.

“The Best of Jerry Pournelle” is a must-have for Pournelle fans. It’s a book that can be enjoyed by science fans who may not have read him.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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There are 13 comments.

  1. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m not all that much of a sci-fi reading junkie. But I loved Jerry Pournelle’s column (which eventually became known as Computing at Chaos Manor) in BYTE magazine from the 70s to the 90s), and I’ve always thought of him as the “Father of End-User Computing” in that I think he recognized, perhaps before most others, the utility of persons such as myself who didn’t have a formal background in computer science, but who were interested, thoughtful, logical, and who could understand and serve as a bridge to those who suddenly found themselves on the front lines of the battle when the computer moved from the glass house to the secretary’s desk.

    That willingness to extend my (English major and teaching) background into opportunistic technology fields led to a 30-year successful IT career. And I’ve always thought Jerry Pournelle was partially responsible.

    Thanks for this post.

    • #1
    • December 8, 2019, at 11:23 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  2. Hartmann von Aue Member

    I was a huge fan of the man’s collaborations with Larry Niven and his short stories as well as his writings advocating SDI back in the 80s. Thanks for drawing my attention to this. 

    • #2
    • December 8, 2019, at 12:23 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    I was a huge fan of the man’s collaborations with Larry Niven and his short stories as well as his writings advocating SDI back in the 80s. Thanks for drawing my attention to this.

    The collaborations are some of my favorites.

    • #3
    • December 8, 2019, at 1:28 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  4. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    I was a huge fan of the man’s collaborations with Larry Niven and his short stories as well as his writings advocating SDI back in the 80s. Thanks for drawing my attention to this.

    The collaborations are some of my favorites.

    One of my favorite books is Fallen Angels, which is a Niven, Pournelle, and Michael Flynn novel. I’ll definitely add this collection to my wish list. Thanks, Seawriter.

    • #4
    • December 8, 2019, at 2:16 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  5. Randy Webster Member

    The Niven-Pournelle collaborations were almost uniformly excellent.

    • #5
    • December 8, 2019, at 2:44 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  6. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    At Balticon many years ago, Jerry and Larry talked about Robert Heinlein’s contributions to their collaboration, The Mote in God’s Eye, including 20 pages of single spaced notes, all done on the condition that they say nothing about it until after his death. He was so drawn to the premise that he made the time, and the result may have been the best first contact novel ever. It is set in Jerry’s Co-Dominium universe and asks the question, who watches the watchmakers? Just ask Crazy Eddy.

    As a scout dad in the Pentagon/Fort Belvoir area I found that reading a Jerry Pournelle book was a sure conversation starter with the other dads. His realistic military science fiction was very highly regarded in those circles, leading to some long and fascinating conversations.

    Jerry had a gift for understanding how organizations worked and developed chemistry and creeds, Larry once said that if there were more than two people in a scene in one of their collaborations, that was likely Jerry’s doing.

    RIP, Jerry.

    • #6
    • December 8, 2019, at 4:52 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    I am not a fan of science fiction. I read and enjoyed his column. I would encourage you to read and, perhaps, review a series of novels by an English author named Andrew Wareham. They are historical novels and are very informative in the way the WEB Griffin novels were about the US military. His two themes are the industrial revolution in England in the 19th century and the history of Papua New Guinea in the 20th century. He taught Economic History in England for ten years. He also served as a Policeman in PNG for ten years.

    • #7
    • December 8, 2019, at 4:52 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    The Niven-Pournelle collaborations were almost uniformly excellent.

    I believe I have read and reread, several times, most of these. 

    • #8
    • December 8, 2019, at 8:08 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Sisyphus (View Comment):
    the result may have been the best first contact novel ever. It is set in Jerry’s Co-Dominium universe and asks the question, who watches the watchmakers? Just ask Crazy Eddy.

    On the gripping hand….

    • #9
    • December 8, 2019, at 8:10 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  10. ToryWarWriter Thatcher

    As a big fan of Dr. Pournelle (in letters he would insist I call him Jerry), I had been a long term fan of his website and infrequent letter writer to him.

    I cite my reading of his work in high school as my eventual political conversion.

    I never met him in person sadly, but I am an acquaintance of his son Philip who has a fascinating career of his own.

    I always make to sure read West of Honor once a year.

    I remember him talking about one of these short stories once on his blog and writing to him that I always had expected such a story to have existed, but it was the first time I had even heard about being mentioned.

    He wrote back, that maybe he should see about getting it republished along with other lost works.

    • #10
    • December 9, 2019, at 6:11 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  11. mildlyo Member
    mildlyo Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    By the way, the fourth book in the Janissaries series is completed and a publication date next June has been announced.

    Pre order on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mamelukes-4-Janissaries-Jerry-Pournelle/dp/1982124628

     

     

     

    • #11
    • December 9, 2019, at 8:13 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  12. Barry Jones Thatcher

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    As a big fan of Dr. Pournelle (in letters he would insist I call him Jerry), I had been a long term fan of his website and infrequent letter writer to him.

    I cite my reading of his work in high school as my eventual political conversion.

    I never met him in person sadly, but I am an acquaintance of his son Philip who has a fascinating career of his own.

    I always make to sure read West of Honor once a year.

    I remember him talking about one of these short stories once on his blog and writing to him that I always had expected such a story to have existed, but it was the first time I had even heard about being mentioned.

    He wrote back, that maybe he should see about getting it republished along with other lost works.

    Currently reading West of Honor and am in the midst of a once every few years reread of all the Pournelle books I own (I started with A Spaceship for the King when it was first published and became an instant fan).

    • #12
    • December 9, 2019, at 9:29 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. Seawriter Member
    Seawriter

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    The Niven-Pournelle collaborations were almost uniformly excellent.

    I believe I have read and reread, several times, most of these.

    If you get this book you can read several more. There is an opening scene cut from A Mote in God’s Eye and a new story in the Legacy of Herriot series.

    • #13
    • December 9, 2019, at 9:30 AM PST
    • 2 likes