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Big Boys Don't Cry by Tom Kratman
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Big Boys Don't Cry

by Tom Kratman

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It took a little while to get into was the biggest drawback. It was written well, with good descriptions of military action scenes. It was confusing at times, as it jumped around a lot. Once you realize that it's not really a full story, but segments of short stories put together that fit an overall theme. ( )
  renbedell | Jun 12, 2015 |
2015-05-19/8%: Fuck, another MilSF. That was cool when I was in my teens and 20s but then I actually joined the military and found out that it may actually have higher percentage of morons than real life does, also I grew up. The first bit, told by the tank, was fairly good. Then it through in some opinion piece disguised as an info article. Not digging that.

2015-05-20/28%: Still boring. And WTF was the bit with the tank that had an ambiguous gender so it had "never fully integrated with the unit"? It was shitty excuse for why this tank bugged out and left Maggie on her own to push the story but it was also bullshit. Why does the tank have a gender in the first place? It's a fucking tank. Then, WTF does it's gender have to do with integrating into the unit of other tanks, none of which actually have a gender. My inclination is to think that this was the author's lame attempt to sneak his lame political views into the story.

2015-05-20/43%: Gonna punt on this one. I might have enjoyed it 20 years ago but I'm tired of MilSF and if I wanted to read about AI tanks I'd be reading Bolo because Laumer did better 50 years ago than Kratman is doing it in this novella. The dying tank story isn't doing anything for me and interspersed ra-ra propaganda bits aren't doing it for me and military stuff with all it's stupid jargon isn't doing it for me. If I never read another book with the words "echelon left" I think that would be just fine with me. ( )
  Awfki | May 23, 2015 |
I don't read a lot of military scifi, but if Tom Kratman's [b:Big Boys Don't Cry|20882829|Big Boys Don't Cry|Tom Kratman|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1393024750s/20882829.jpg|40223487] is any indication of what I'm missing, I may start reading more.

Nominated for the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novella (a story with a word count between 17,500 words and 40,000 words), Big Boys Don't Cry held me from the first page. This review is part of my effort to read and evaluate the 2015 Hugo nominees prior to the final vote later this year. I’ve previously reviewed “Totaled” by [a:Kary English|6427054|Kary English|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/user/u_50x66-632230dc9882b4352d753eedf9396530.png], Flow by [a:Arlan Andrews Sr.|2953875|Arlan Andrews Sr.|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/user/u_50x66-632230dc9882b4352d753eedf9396530.png], and I’ll post other reviews as I write them.

Although there's been a bit of controversy around the Hugo Awards this year (okay, a lot more than just a bit), I've decided to plow ahead and evaluate as many of the nominees as possible. Much of what has been written and said seems driven by emotion and a scarcity mentality bent on controlling and manipulating the award, where little seems to address the quality of the nominees. With some exception in the novel category (I've already finished Annie Leckie's Ancillary Sword, many of the nominees appear to be new (to me), which presents an opportunity to meet some new authors, expand my regular reading, and perhaps add to the conversation. Once I've been able to get a better grasp of the quality of writing, perhaps I can examine it against the larger conversation (or, if you will, screaming match) happening in science fiction right now over the politics, future, and fandom around the Hugo Award.

But I digress. Where was I?

Oh, yes. [a:Tom Kratman|159596|Tom Kratman|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/user/m_50x66-82093808bca726cb3249a493fbd3bd0f.png]. Big Boys Don't Cry. Novella. Hugo nominee A thought provoking read.

In the far future, man has expanded throughout to the universe, overcoming the light barrier. In an imperialistic surge, we have designed autonomous tanks with artificial intelligence. Initially designed to work hand in hand with soldiers, they eventually replace them, becoming the main line of an imperial ground force. Intelligent beyond our own capacity, but tempered by very human like emotions, they are more human than we realize.

Prior to becoming a full time author, Kratman was a career military officer, and it shows in his writing. Big Boys Don't Cry is written by a mind steeped in the culture and history of a trained soldier and officer. That said, Kratman is no conformist, but portrays a critical awareness of the dark side of war and military culture. Underlying his story about an artificial intelligence that becoming self-aware and developing a conscience is a cautionary tale about the dangers of hubris, of becoming to distanced from the violence and pain of war, and of allowing machines to do for us what we are unwilling to do ourselves.

I loved Kratman's description of how the hardware for the artificial intelligence is grown, as well as how the AI is trained to become a warrior. He gives special attention to explaining--in mostly comprehensible technojargon--how the gigantic tanks are mobile and powered under their immense weight. He interweaves his story with requisite back story, almost in the form of a chiasmus (poetic, not genetic), coming to the end of his story just as the denouement arrives.

If I were to lodge a sole complaint, it would be that Kratman's humans are superficially all of one breed, a selfish and greedy race, consumed with domination and control. It does, however, serve to put the protagonist tank, Maggie, in high relief as a more sympathetic character.

Big Boys Don't Cry got me thinking, and that's one of my main criteria for a competitive nominee for the Hugo. I hope all the best for Kratman as the voters start to tally their ballots. At the very least, I'm glad to discover a new author, and I look forward to reading more by Kratman in the future. ( )
  publiusdb | Apr 24, 2015 |
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