I like big bots and I cannot lie

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Of Mechs And Men review

Rating – 5 Brains

Back in the late 80s when I was a young nerd, a magazine appeared on the shelves of my local newsagent. Entitled “GM”, it was dedicated to roleplaying games, fantasy fiction, painting miniatures etc. One issue featured a gigantic robot with missiles on its shoulders, and huge cannons where its hands should be. Obviously, I was instantly captivated when I learned that this was artwork from a board game called Battletech.

GM Magazine
I mean, that is pretty badass isn’t it?

In a few years, I had bought the game, plus the expansion “Citytech”, and poster size blueprints of the Mechs adorned my bedroom wall. I played it a few times, but it was a bit complex, very complex in fact. It did leave me with a love for big robots duking it out in some far flung future though.

So what’s it about?

Of Mechs And Men is essentially a book club devoted to Battletech fiction. Battletech, like Warhammer 40k and pretty much any facet of geek culture gets a huge amount of fiction devoted to expanding their respective universes and lore. And this show explores that. There is a saying in Battletech, “Came for the game, stayed for the fiction”. That is certainly true. What started out as an action packed (if overly “crunchy”) strategy game, blossomed into a huge universe packed with political intrigue, military might, and plucky underdogs saving the day. All this was thanks to an almost fanatical group of writers, who over the last nearly 40 years have written vast amounts of short stories, novellas and timelines of future histories.

The three hosts, Canaan, Brent and Aaron, dissect chunks of these battletech novels, splitting each book down into 6 episodes or so. They have a light-hearted approach that is somewhat refreshing for such an analytical show. People who devote their time to exploring fictional universes tend to get a bit stuffy and serious. Thankfully, these guys keep everything accessible. Their genuine wit and humor adds a nice dimension to their analysis, and you get the feeling that it is just a group of guys chatting about the stories informally, rather than following some pre-written script that must cover a bullet point list of topics.

Is it any good?

Well, I mean it got me to download the audiobook of the novel they discuss in the first few episodes, and I’m enjoying that. What I mean to say is that I listened to the first episode, and before it finished I had rebooted my audible account and downloaded the audiobook. I then binged the whole thing, then I went back and listened to their analysis. After all, that is the point of a book club isn’t it?

It was great to hear their thoughts on the story, and as the three of them discussed it, their enthusiasm as “veterans” of the books was still as great as mine as a newcomer. Surely the point of  a show like this is to encourage people into the fandom, and Canaan, Brent and Aaron do this brilliantly.

I am now fully back down a Battletech rabbit hole and I’ll be getting through at least all of the Gray Death Legion trilogy. (I may as well, I’m now at the end of the second book!) I’ll also be seeing if my kids will swap Nintendo Switches and Xbox discs for a few 6 sided dice and a map or two. I don’t hold out much hope for that though!

Final thoughts

I appreciate that even for me, this is a niche subject, and one that I honestly never thought I’d visit. Obviously I’ve seen the books on sale at my FLGS, but this particular literary genre has never really interested me. By that I mean fan fiction in general, although I’m quickly changing my mind on that. Credit where credit is due, I have to say, that thanks to this podcast I am finally dipping my toe in the waters of Battletech fiction, and got through the first book they discuss in a very short time indeed. I did the same with book two, and I’m eagerly awaiting my next audible credit to spend on book three. I have to know what happens to Grayson Carslisle! Yes, I know I can get print or ebook versions, but Tren Sparks readings of the audiobooks are simply amazing.

Ultimately, and despite the exceptionally narrow audience that this podcast would appeal to, I have to give it 5 out of 5 just because it does the job it sets out to do admirably. If you have even a passing interest in science fiction, then I recommend the contagious enthusiasm of these three Battletech nerds. Who knows, you may just end up a hopeless addict like me!

You can get Of Mechs And Men here:


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