Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Janissaries (Janissaries, #1)” as Want to Read:
Janissaries (Janissaries, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


(Janissaries #1)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,753 ratings  ·  82 reviews
Some days it just didn't pay to be a soldier. Captain Rick Galloway and his men had been talked into volunteering for a dangerous mission—only to be ruthlessly abandoned when faceless CIA higher-ups pulled the plug on the operation. They were cut off in hostile territory, with local troops and their Cuban "advisors" rapidly closing in. And then the alien spaceship landed.. ...more
Paperback, 245 pages
Published February 1st 1996 by Baen Books (first published January 1st 1979)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Janissaries, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Ehosmer I spoke to Mr Pournelle at DragonCon a week before his passing. Now very bitter sweet moment for me.

I asked "When can I give you money for Mamalukes?…more
I spoke to Mr Pournelle at DragonCon a week before his passing. Now very bitter sweet moment for me.

I asked "When can I give you money for Mamalukes?" He got a big smile and a chuckled. Told me next year, and that he would still need to 2 to 3 more books to finish the story.

So very Bitter sweet.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,753 ratings  ·  82 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Janissaries (Janissaries, #1)
Charles  van Buren
Mercenaries for aliens

Captain Rick Galloway, serving as a mercenary in Africa under the auspices of the CIA, finds himself and his few surviving men abandoned by the CIA just as about a thousand Cubans are closing in. It looks like the end. Surrender is not an option but boarding a flying saucer is. Thus the adventure begins.

The general ideas behind this novel have been used several times in science fiction but few have written these themes as well as has Jerry Pournelle. A delightful fantasy to
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This illustrated novel attempts to be a Burrough's type Mars series, updated for the seventies. Unfortunately, it succeeds.

Rick Galloway, leading a bunch of mercs in a backwater war in Africa is surrounded by Marxist troops, and their Cuba "advisors" when they are picked up by a flying saucer and taken to planet out in the cosmos.

Turns out the planet can, for a limited time, produce a narcotic the aliens want. The troops have to subdue the planet's population, and grow the crop, or be wiped ou
Mike (the Paladin)
I am a bit royally ticked about this book. See I like it. I've liked other books by the writers they have turned out some great science fiction (and science fantasy). Much of it with plenty of action, a lot of it with thought provoking ideas.

The book's great. I sort of stumbled over it after seeing it reviewed and recommended here. Went to the library web-sight and there it was. Hoopla had it in audio all I had to do was download it.

It's not a totally new idea human soldiers from earth get tra
Dirk Grobbelaar
Well, this is quite far removed from the stuff Pournelle did with Larry Niven. I've enjoyed the books of the latter, as well as the collaborations between the two authors, so it was only a matter of time before getting around to one of Pournelle's solo outings. Janissaries appears to be quite popular, and I can see why, it does have a pulpy, old school charm interspersed with some darker elements that is somewhat appealing. The only problem that I had with this novel was that I thought it wasn't ...more
Rachel MacNaught
Jan 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
Grand story, awesome premise and absolutely no substance. Not a single element of storytelling is implored here. It's a concept, a rough sketch. "They did this and then went here. Everyone now is fluent in Latin. Now it is two years later. Something occurs. It's now a week later."

I was bored to death. Which frankly sucks because the concept is awesome. Planets around the universe in which humans were transplanted centuries ago, taking the current culture at the time with them. The variables coul
Nov 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook

Currently on Audible Plus, Books 1-3

I assumed that the series was finished. I'm wrong. Thanks to the reviewer of #3 that let people know the #3 ends on a cliffhanger and the series has not been completed.

I had read another book by the author and enjoyed it. When I saw that this series was also on Audible Plus, I added it to my audio TBR. Unfortunately, the pacing for the series is not as well done and overly ambitious in concept vs what's written down.

Interesting ideas but underdeveloped
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In many ways, the best science fiction is that based on human history, and this story is one of the best. It opens with Captain Rick Galloway leading a group of mercenaries against a larger Cuban unit in a tropical African country. The situation is dire and they all know that their fate is to either be killed in action or executed after being captured. Officials of their sponsor, the American CIA, pulled all support for their operation, so they can expect no assistance.
Suddenly, a spaceship l
Apr 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: SciFi, military, historical buffs
I love this book and just passed it along to my 12-year-old son, who read it in one sitting. The whole idea of aliens kidnapping military units from throughout history has been done before. In fact, I still enjoy watching my copy of Dr. Who's War Games. In this book, however, even with modern weapons and 20th Century tactics, the hero is forced to fight with proven methods of Roman legions. It doesn't have to make sense, but this book has always been in my top 25, no matter how many good ones I ...more
Kevin Findley
This edition is lavishly illustrated and is described by many as either a trade paperback or an illustrated novel. I prefer the latter description, it seems more accurate.

Lavish is the correct word to use. It's an amazing attempt to enhance storytelling that we just don't see anymore. I picked up this copy and the sequel at a second-hand shop and am looking forward to the next book.

Even if you have already read another version, find this one and dive into the adventures of Rick Galloway once mo
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great old fashioned adventure. Combination of cold war era US military & medieval society works far better than it has any right to. Janissaries is a bit heavy on machismo but Pournelle's protagonist is an exemplar of martial virtue and continence in the face of licentious barbarism. The author also rather skillfully slips in an anti-eugenics message.
However, the best surprise in this title is the art work. The artist really does justice to the military aesthetic.
Nov 09, 2010 rated it liked it
A quick, but interesting group of ideas. Plenty of action with a neat balance between high & low technology. There were a lot of neat themes that played out quickly. My edition is a paperback with a lot of good drawings in it. I think I would have liked the book better if the ideas had been more fully developed, but that might have taken volumes.
Ryk Stanton
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was ok
I have a bit of history with this book. When I first read it, I was maybe 13 years old. I had been reading and devouring Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators books at a rate of about three a day before my aunt found out how quickly i was reading them and told me I should get something more substantial. She was the one who always bought my books for me, from the mall, so she took me to Waldenbooks and let me choose.

Janissaries was slightly bigger than other books (trade paperback sized,
Dec 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book — mercenaries fighting Cubans in Africa and abandoned by CIA, rescued by aliens and then serving as Space Mercenaries to alien cultures. However, just couldn’t get into it at all — I like military sci-fi, alt-history, anti communism, and mercenaries, but it 1) didn’t come together 2) ended as a cliffhanger for no reason. No interest in the rest of the series.
Benjamin Espen
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I reviewed Janissaries by Jerry Pournelle in 2011, but I am going to do so again in preparation for the fourth posthumously published volume in the series. This is another book that made a big impression on me, and I want to do it justice.

First, the physical volume itself is one of my favorites. The cover of my Ace paperback from 1979 is credited to Enrich, and the interior really is massively illustrated by Luis Bermejo. Bermejo’s illustrations make the story come alive, even though as Ken Lizz
Feb 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
The first of these earth warrior adbucted to fight aliens low-tech wars I read. Not the best. That's probably be Poul Anderson's The High Crusade.

Still, a good read
Aug 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Probably my favorite book by Pournelle. And my copy is nicely illustrated. A really good book.
Benn Allen
The late Jerry Pournelle's "Janissaries" is possibly one of his more famous works. While it's ostensibly a novel geared for adults, it reads, in spite of a rape of one character (that happens off screen) and implied sexual encounters with two other characters, the book reads more like a Young Adult novel. And there's nothing wrong with Young Adult books (I read some from time to time), it's a bit disorienting expecting the book to be one thing, but finding out it's something else. Much of why I ...more
Kim Hoag
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I haven't read Pournelle in a long time (he died three years ago), and then only one of his books, so it was time. This book would not have been my first choice—a mercenary group gets sent by aliens to an earth-like planet where there are past cultures already present (every 600 years worth, or so). I'm usually not crazy about mixing time periods, but Pournelle makes it work so well that the book becomes a quick read. He has a story that seems mismatched at the edges—trust me, it's not. There ar ...more
Jun 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
While not my favorite book by Jerry Pournelle, I give this one four stars because the setup is extremely interesting, and I kept wanting to see where things would go next. My only actual complaint with this book and its sequels is that several times I lost track of the amount of time that passed, because of the way the story is told.
There is a weakness in the way the two main female characters are portrayed, and I think that this was an attempt to display the radical differences between the cul
Sean Helms
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good adventurous book. Has some of the best of both worlds from Sci-Fi and fantasy.
CIA mercs fighting in Africa against Cubans are getting swoops a UFO and whisks them to safety on the moon! One little catch: they can't go home, but they can go far far away and grow drugs for the ETs. I'm not kidding. The world they're left on is a mish-mash of earlier civilizations that the ETs have planted there before (every 600 years). There are Romans, Celts, and Greeks... and now American me
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book was very interesting and sometimes confusing. Personally i thought that the book was okay, I didn't hate it but I didn't like it. The captain of their military was convinced into volunteering to do a very dangerous mission. They ended up getting abandoned and the CIA ended the mission. They were left in enemy territory. They had to figure out a way to get out and survive. Did they die or did they survive? Read the rest of the book to find out. ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book. Military sci-fi with a twist. Have re-read it over a dozen times over the past 20 years. I just wished he would finish the final (4th book).

Otherwise, fast-paced story telling with well-developed story + characters.
Dan Hyer
May 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Okay, but feels a little dated reading today, some it causing mental cringing. I'd call this classic 1980s sci-fi. Also the author refers to some weapons in ways that I've never heard before, and isn't common usage. ...more
Pedro L. Fragoso
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jo Walton is right, great adventure and universe.
Joe Susnick
Dec 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good old-fashioned sometimes incidentally sexist Military Sci-fi. Really fun weird book. The definition of a guilty pleasure.
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some duplication

Be careful of how you buy this series, some of it is duplicated in other works. I do like this The history gets easier by the second book.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It is well written and fun with science fiction and a touch of medieval fantasy in there. I look forward to the second book.
George Slade
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I'm on a search for awesome science fiction. This was not that.

It was okay, but I won't be reading the rest of the series.

It started well, but it faded away quickly.
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good beginning

Well crafted, but a quick read. Pournelle layers in his research, except erience, and worldview in a compelling story. Worth your time.
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Debt of Honor (The Embers of War, #1)
  • Days of Burning, Days of Wrath (Carerra #8)
  • The First Book of Swords (Books of Swords, #1)
  • Friday
  • Berserker (Berserker, #1)
  • At the End of the World (Black Tide Rising Book 7)
  • Primary Targets (Earth at War #2)
  • Return Fire (Earth at War Book 3)
  • Earth Ascendant (The Forgotten Empire, #2)
  • The Legacy of Heorot (Heorot #1)
  • USS Hamilton: Ironhold Station
  • The Forge of God (Forge of God, #1)
  • The Battle For Earth (The Forgotten Empire, #3)
  • Tomorrow's Kin (Yesterday's Kin Trilogy, #1)
  • Iron Wolves (Order of the Centurion, #2)
  • Raising Steam (Arturo Sandus Book 2)
  • Order of the Centurion (Order of the Centurion, #1)
  • 1st to Fight (Earth at War #1)
See similar books…
Dr Jerry Eugene Pournelle was an American science fiction writer, engineer, essayist, and journalist, who contributed for many years to the computer magazine Byte, and from 1998 until his death maintained his own website and blog.

From the beginning, Pournelle's work centered around strong military themes. Several books describe the fictional mercenary infantry force known as Falkenberg's Legion. T

Other books in the series

Janissaries (4 books)
  • Clan and Crown (Janissaries, #2)
  • Storms of Victory  (Janissaries, #3)
  • Mamelukes (Janissaries #4)

News & Interviews

Looking for a fictional meet-cute in the new year? We've got some steamy novels for you to snuggle up with, including Casey McQuiston's...
58 likes · 14 comments