The Glory Game

by Keith Laumer
Reviewed date: 2007 Jul 21
Rating: 4
222 pages
cover art

The Glory Game is top-notch military science fiction. It's not quite on the level of Starship Troopers or Dorsai!, but it's a fun story.

The Terran Empire is threatened by the Hukk, a warlike alien race. Nobody knows much about the Hukk. The Terrans are politically divided on how to deal with the threat. Only one man, Commodore Tan Dalton, understands the Hukk threat enough to devise a suitable defense, but he does not have command of the Terran Navy.

The Characters

  • Softliners - The anti-war politicians want to avoid war. They believe the best way to deal with the Hukk is with an olive-branch. A few concessions to the Hukk will prevent conflict.
  • Hardliners - War hawks believe the Hukk threat must be crushed. The Terrans should not wait for the Hukk to initiate hostilities. They should strike first, and wipe every last Hukk off the face of the galaxy.
  • Tan Dalton - Commodore of the Terran Navy, he is respected by both the Hardliners and the Softliners. When Terra stages a navy exercise--as a show of force--both the Hardliners and Softliners approach Dalton. Both are afraid that the other side's admiral will seize command of the fleet. Each side promises Dalton a promotion and political favors if he seizes command instead.

The Conflict
During the fleet exercise, Dalton uncovers a Hukk plot to attack Terra. He seizes command of the fleet--much to the consternation of the admirals--and intercepts the Hukk armada. By sheer bravado, he cows the Hukk into surrender. Then he disarms the Hukk vessels and sends them home.

The Flaw
Then Dalton must deal with the political fallout--the Hardliners and Softliners each try to spin the incident to their advantage. Both are irritated at Dalton's refusal to toe the party line. Apparently, Dalton is the only human in the whole galaxy who believes that the Hukk military threat should be met with decisive military action, but that a genocide against the Hukk race is unnecessary. That, I believe, is the biggest flaw in The Glory Game. The Hardliners and Softliners are gross caricatures. Dalton's moderate views make him the only reasonable person in the book.

The Retirement
The Softliners gain the political upper hand. The Terran navy is gutted. Dalton is forced into retirement and politely asked to leave Earth. He sets himself up in a frontier planet and waits for the inevitable Hukk attack. (Dalton believes that the Hukk will rebuild their fleet and attack again.) When the Hukk try again, Dalton is ready.

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