Casca (Review)

Casca (Review)

In my science fiction stories (both the published Early ReTyrement and several others I spooled out over the years), the hero did the direct jump, either backwards or forwards. Blink and he’s there. In the Casca series, the hero does it the long way, by living each year.

See, Casca Rufio Longinus is the hapless Roman soldier put on execution duty. He’s on the detail putting Christ up on the cross. And in that, he takes pity on the guy and jams his spear into him if only to shorten his suffering. Christ, for all his blessings, misinterprets this action and curses the mercenary, declaring that he will remain as he is until they meet again (i.e. the second coming).

So that sucks. Casca can’t do anything save soldiering. He tries farming and business, but it always fails. And he never gets old, so all his loved ones grow old and die. And on he lives, unable to be killed, good for nothing save grunting.

I got into this series years back when it first came out and bought each one as it hit the stands (I dropped off at #21, and I see they are up to #37 now). Barry Sadler, a Green Beret (and writer of the hit “The ballad of the Green Berets”) put together the first few (my understanding is that the rest have been ghost written, confirmed by the fact that Sadler was shot in Mexico in 1988 under murky circumstances). But the stories keep coming out.

I suppose I should pooh-pooh these military fetish-fantasies for what they are. I haven’t read them for years – they are still sitting on my “favorites” shelf. Some day, perhaps. But I do remember enjoying them. Like simple westerns (see an example HERE), there is something comforting at falling back on basic literature, of finding a yarn that doesn’t try to mean anything. It’s just a fun story of a guy who, thanks  to Christ, is really stuck. And like Louis L’amour books, there are always clever twists to savor (ones that big-box literature sometimes forget). For example, as I recall, as a Viking Casca sails far to the west and eventually falls afoul of the Aztecs who decide to sacrifice him. When they cut out his heart and raise it high, he reaches up and snatches it back. Very clever moment (which makes him, as I recollect, a god).

Look at them as literary trash. Look at them as textual junk food. But the fact remains that its fun to occasionally slip back and read an old thin paperback that can easily fit in your back pocket, one that’s got obvious good guys and bad guys, and nobody tried to make any morality statements (other than bad guys should die).

I’m actually talking myself into considering having another go at a couple of them. I really liked when he was a Panzer Soldier in WW2.

But that’s another story…