Andy Farman’s Armageddon’s Song series starts with Stand-To, published in 2013. It’s-something. It tries to be a post-USSR thriller, but that description does not do it justice. It’s something. I’ll put it that way.
The spy-novel intro is out-there, but then it manages to devolve into a sort of meta-WWIII against a Sino-Russian alliance, diverging from formula via pure spectacle and some very bizzare national alignments.
Stand To might as well be the rivet capital of the world. It has, especially after the war starts, infodump after infodump after infodump after infodump after infodump after infodump after infodump after infodump after-you get the idea. I’ve seen outright pseudo-historical summaries that have fewer infodumps than this. Far fewer.
Infodumps on everything from artillery trajectories to squad tactics to equipment to chemical suits to chemical paper to radar types to training to repeated rants about how the British military is underfunded and underequipped are tossed clunkily onto the pages.
This book opens with a ridiculous spy-novel plot involving femme fatales so tasteless and ridiculous they’d be rejected from an Austin Powers movie, and just incredible sleaze as tasteless as it is ridiculous. Then once the war actually starts, well, it has a Slavic ex-Soviet republic, deeply divided, with parts of it allying with the Russians but the bulk of it siding with the West.
It’s Belarus. That other big former SSR you might have thought was the culprit from the description is barely present, but the Czechs have flipped and are the spearhead of the enemy into Western Europe (so that the opening lines can still be in Germany).
Then there’s plot-nukes that open the war but don’t distract from the chemical-conventional clashes (and infodumps). The zombie sorceresses were very busy here.
First, the prose isn’t very good. There’s typos galore, everything is spelled out in amazing detail, and it makes gory deaths seem yawn-inducing. Second, the characters zig-zag from the raunchy spy novel caricatures of the opening to the flat infodumped “there to provide an anchor for the action and nothing else” ones of the proper war. Even when there’s a hint of personal struggle, it’s right back to more infodumps.
Second, the entire story takes a 180 turn from the bad spy novel tone to the infodumpalicious actual war.
The Only Score That Really Matters
And yet I felt amused by this. This is raw, unpolished, unfiltered-something. It earnestly combines infodumpy “boom boom goes the tank” action with sleazy spy novel stuff. It honestly felt a little novel in its excess. This kind of fiction at its worst tends to be either ultra-infodumped and over-researched or slapdash with stuff done for the fun of it. Stand To somehow manages to be both at the same time.
For normal readers, I wouldn’t recommend it. But for someone like me who enjoys such spectacles, it was amazing. It takes a lot of effort to shock me with too many infodumps, but this managed.