THE FIRST TO LAND by Douglas Reeman


Email this review


Badge of Glory (1984) provided a lively, uninspired batch of 1850s military adventures for two young heroes of the Royal Marines: Harry Blackwood and his half-brother Philip. Now, jumping ahead to 1900, Philip is dead, Harry is an aging lion, and their sons--one a Royal Marines star-captain, the other a trembling neophyte--see equally routine action in the China of the Boxer Rebellion. Harry's son David, a Victoria Cross winner, is disappointed when he's dispatched to Peking, where there's been little excitement; he's also disappointed to see that his impertinent cousin Ralf, among the Marines in David's troop, shows signs of cowardice. Before they even get to Shanghai, however, David learns that the foreigner-hating Boxers have made China a lively place again: the Marines come upon a European ship that's been savagely attacked by Boxer pirates--and among the few survivors aboard is gorgeous, brave Countess von Heiser, on her way to join her diplomat-husband. So, after a stop in Shanghai, David is assigned to escort the Countess upriver--aboard a scruffy light cruiser--to an island mission: while their forbidden love blooms, however, so do Boxer ambushes. Then, after barely making it back to their home-ship (David has a concussion), the Marines set out for Peking--which has been struck by the Boxers. But, suffering from thirst and yet more ambushes, David and his men never get even close to Peking: they spend the rest of the novel battling the Boxers (now joined by Imperial soldiers) in and around besieged Tientsin--with fearful Ralf making up for his dishonorable behavior with a final display of impulsive gallantry (setting off a giant explosion to break through the Boxer lines). And though David and the Countess must part forever, he returns home to learn that she has given birth to a baby boy--not fathered, apparently, by the impotent Count. Despite a few half-hearted attempts at offbeat characterization among the troops: standard, competent skirmish action, punctuated here and there by bloodless romance and silly, stiff dialogue.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1985
Publisher: Morrow