By the 22nd century, the Wealthy Nations Group relieves overpopulation by persuading ethnic or religious minority groups to colonize planets of their own. Poland’s Kashubians accept a barren planet of solid metal, which they lease to the Japanese for mining—but then they’re forced to inhabit the tunnels excavated by the miners. And since everything has to be imported, the New Kashubians live in economic slavery on starvation diets, with the sexes segregated so the population cannot increase. Finally they nationalize the mines, kick off the Japanese, and discover stockpiles of advanced weapons. Naturally, they grab these and sign mercenary contracts with planet New Yugoslavia, where the usual factions are still itching to start wars. Young Kashubian engineer Mickolai Derdowski, condemned for a trivial offense, is offered either execution or training as the human partner of an intelligent Mark XIX Main Battle Tank; Mickolai’s beloved, Kasia, suffers a similar fate. Mickolai’s tank calls herself Agnieshka, and communicates directly with his brain through a virtual reality, named Dream World. After training, the two are shipped to New Yugoslavia to fight for the Croats against the Serbs. Mickolai survives numerous campaigns, enjoys plenty of R&R in Dream World, undergoes officer training, wins more battles, and eventually is decanted from his tank—only to learn that all of this has taken place in Dream World. In actuality, he’s built an underground road system on New Yugoslavia while both Croats and Serbs have been fed spectacular, soothing lies about huge, bloodthirsty battles. Despite the high-tech whiz-bangs and extended history lesson, a deflating variant on the “he fell out of bed and woke up” scenario: competently wrought but rather YA-ish, with teenagers the likely target audience.