Before I discuss the stories in the Prince Roger series, I thought I’d say a few words about the two-man writing team. I’ve always wondered how a writing duo works. Do they write alternate chapters? Do they each “own” certain characters, and write from their point-of-view? Does one person lay out the basic framework, and the other person polishes it up?
When I read a two-author book, and it has boring parts and interesting parts, I assume that I like one author’s style, and don’t like the other’s. Usually, I haven’t read any solo work by the authors, so I don’t know which one is which. The Prince roger series is a different case, as I’ve read solo work by both Weber and Ringo.
I was surprised that I actually liked this team effort better than the solo efforts of either author. Ringo has a tendency to run off on tangents, and the last Weber book that I read was a bit too predictable in certain parts. In my imagination, Weber kept Ringo from running off the rails, but when Weber’s sections were a bit standard, Ringo said “what if we turned that up to 11?”
Of course, I don’t know what really happened. It could have been the exact opposite, or any other combination of the two authors’ talents. I do know that I enjoyed the result.
OK, on to the stories. It’s been a while since I read them, so it’s possible I’ll get some minor details wrong. I refer to these books as the “Prince Roger series” because Prince Roger is the most important character. He is the third son of the Galactic Empress. Nobody expects him to ever take the throne, so he spends his time doing rich-kid things and being assigned unimportant political tasks.
Roger is on his way to a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a new fish-processing plant on an out-of-the-way planet when a bomb goes off on his spaceship. The ship crash-lands on a primitive planet, and Roger and the military unit that serves as his personal bodyguard are stranded. I like the uncertainty of this situation, which lasts throughout the first three books of the four-book series. The characters, and the reader, don’t know whether the assassination attempt was just a slap in the face of the Empress, or whether Roger’s entire family has been killed, leaving him the rightful Emperor.
Roger must learn to leave behind his past as a playboy and become a leader of trained military men, but in some ways must learn to be a follower as well, listening to and relying on the experience of the more mature members of his bodyguard unit. He has to do this on a planet full of poisonous and/or carnivorous creatures and primitive alien tribesmen.
Roger has picked up a few skills to help him survive. Trophy-hunting was one of his favorite playboy pastimes, so he’s a crack shot with a rifle. In a story element that I found less-believable, apparently the Imperial family had a tradition of practicing hand-to-hand combat with primitive weapons like pole-arms, battle-axes, and zweihanders. Fencing is considered aristocratic today, but I don’t know that a combat form requiring brute force would ever be considered so. Perhaps, if the Imperial family were genetically large, muscular individuals, they might encourage such a sport to emphasize their dominance over the smaller people.
The first book in the series, March Upcountry, covers the crash, and the survivors fighting off deadly jungle creatures and hostile tribesmen. There is a spaceport on this remote planet, but it’s all the way across the world from the crash site, so it’s going to be a long walk.
In the second book, March to the Sea, the survivors realize they aren’t going to make it on their own, so they begin recruiting, arming, and training a force of the native tribesmen to escort them. Their immediate goal is a port city, where they hope they can find ships to cross the ocean that lies between them and the spaceport.
In the third book, March to the Stars, the survivors must acquire ships and cross an ocean filled with giant, ship-eating fish. I don’t remember any pirates, but come on, there must have been pirates as well. Maybe I do remember some pirates, or maybe my brain is just filling things in. I also don’t remember the survivors making it all the way to the spaceport by the end of this book, but the title certainly implies it.
In the fourth book, We Few, the survivors find out what the assassination attempt was all about, and deal with the aftermath of that. I can’t say much more without spoilers. I’ve also totally forgotten why Roger is fighting a werewolf on the book’s cover.
Ringo and Weber have occasionally talked about writing additional stories set in Prince Roger’s universe, but haven’t followed through yet. The books were originally published from 2001-2004, so it’s entirely possible they’ll never get around to it. Also, their latest idea was to write prequels, and I’ve never been a fan of prequels.
If you like coming-of-age, ground-pounder, or stranded-on-a-lost-world stories, then the Prince Roger series might be for you. Leave me a comment below if you’ve read the series, or if it sounds like your cup of
tea water with iodine purification tablets.