Biography and Details
Hammer's Slammers is a military sci-fi book series that is part of the Hammerverse catalogue. It was written in English by David Drake with Paul Alexander as the cover artist. Published by Ace Books in 1979, the series has been repackaged and modified over the last three decades. Hammer's Slammers was the first tile in the series and created characters that have continued to reappear in the entire catalog. The book is organized into a set of short stories which focus on the career of a futuristic mercenary group. The protagonist is Colonel Alois Hammer who leads the group. Together the tales came to be known as the “Hammer Stories” and inspired an imaginary Slammers Universe. This is commonly known as Hammerverse.
The Regiment and its Campaigns
Throughout the series, the reader follows the different members of the regiment including descriptions of their exploits and campaigns. It starts with a narrative of how the Friesland government raise the regiment to quell a colonial rebellion on the Melpomene planet. Colonel Hammer converts the group from a formal regiment into a mercenary pack. The tales introduce a diverse range of characters including the gay sociopath Joachim Steuben who has a particular affinity for shooting and is a super marksman. Steuben is completely devoted to the group’s leader as well as some other characters such as Rob Jenne; Danny Prichard; and Margritte DiManzio. The latter joins the regiment when her husband is killed by another group.
The narrator role is partly taken by Sergeant Scratchard who is able to link the regiment to their arsenal of hovertanks and combat vehicles. At the end of the book the author introduces the “Standing Down” tale in which some revolutionary forces in Friedland hire the regiment to overthrow the existing government. Eventually Colonel Hammer co-opts the revolution to become the nation’s President and the regiment becomes the principal fighting force within the defense force.
Technology and Weapons
Of particular interest to readers is the technology and weaponry that is used by the Hammer's Slammers. This theme recurs throughout the entire catalogue. For example there is a power gun which is able to project high energy copper plasma. This in turn creates an electrical field which ionizes atoms. The precision of the gun and its premium grade materials make it a very expensive piece of arsenal that can only be afforded by the best regiments. The book also talks about grenades which are readily used by the infantry troops to complete their quests. The Hammer's Slammers use self-propelling howitzers to directed shells to their adversaries. The rocket shells include cluster bombs, smokescreen rounds and high octane explosives. On some occasions the regiment uses poison gas to flush the enemy out of their bunkers.
Another aspect of the troops’ formidable arsenal are the advanced vehicles that they use for transport and combat. For example they deploy duct-fan motive systems as well as air-cushioning. Their main tanks are said to weigh up to 170 tons and carry a powergun. Each tank has a driver and a sergeant commander who also takes on the role of a gunner. Most of this military hardware is heavily armored to deal with the hostile conditions which the Hammer's Slammers encounter on their expeditions.
Inspiration and Background
The book and the principle characters were based on the author’s experience in the 11th Armored Calvary Regiment which served in Cambodia and Vietnam in the early 1970s. The book also borrows heavily from other mythical situations, stories and characters. These include Jason of the Argonauts; Cross Stars and Red Harvest. It is claimed that the series was partly influenced by tales of the French Foreign Legion of the 1950s. That regiment was notable for taking on a number of former SS soldiers.
Books Featuring the Character
Hammer's Slammers is a recurring set of characters that dominate the Hammerverse catalog. Two of the earliest ones are “At Any Price” which was released in 1985 and “Counting the Cost” which came out two years later. The entire catalogue consists of 8 books and 3 Volume Collections, spanning the years from 1979 to 2006.
“At Any Price”
This book which came out in 1985 focused on the dual themes of cultural conflict as well as authority. In their latest adventure, the Hammer's Slammers help a human community as it grapples with the threat of invading aliens who have the ability to teleport. The book was thought to be a satirical reference to the prevailing Cold War aggressions and features modern weaponry as well as references to political intrigue. The book emphasizes the limited capabilities of the local troops who have to hire the Hammer's Slammers in order to protect themselves.
“Counting the Cost”
In 1987 another book in the series titled “Counting the Cost” followed. In this instance the Hammer's Slammers are caught up in an internal dispute which centers on their employers. Once again the book was said to have relevance to contemporary events including the Nika Riots. The regiment had a captain called Tyl Koopman who took on the role of Belisarius. Here the regiment is required to win a war on two fronts while protecting its power structures from disintegrating under the pressure. The group is continuously attacked by religious fanatics. In hindsight those portrayals are particularly apt in light of recent wars with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
Portrayal in Media and Television
Although the Hammer's Slammers have not been specifically portrayed in a movie or television program; the themes that they tackle are prevalent in many war movies including the 2014 drama titled “Fury” and starring Brad Pitt. Mayfair Games produced a board wargame named after the erstwhile regiment and covering many aspects of their story. Pireme Publishing then developed two miniature rules on the same theme. In June 2009, Mongoose Publishing produced “Hammer’s Anvils: Handbook 2 the Opponents”. This was a role-playing supplement which used the Hammer's Slammers as inspiration. Models from the vehicles that were described in the book have been used in the “Ground Zero Games”. John Treadaway has developed a set of miniatures wargames ruleset titled “The Crucible” which is similarly inspired.