Sci-fi book from '70s or '80s. The government has hundreds of planets and manages them inefficiently. They are having individual planets rebel and it is happening more often.

When the regular military cannot handle the problems they call on a planet whose only resource is mercenaries. They are extremely private and live on an awful world which is why they are so tough and create amazing soldiers. They will only fight with each other and they cannot be forced to do anything.

They have detailed contracts that specify their role. Like any contract it has fine print that keep the arrogant 'regular officers from interfering. It contract broken then they pack up and go home. They are idolized by the public and continually speculate about their exploits, but no one knows anything for sure.

A young and enterprising reporter devises a plan to sneak on board the mercenaries' ship and ask them to let him document their life. He is given the go-ahead by the mercenaries, but only if he can keep up. And of course, they have final say on what is printed.

It turns out that they have developed psionic powers and also 'see' the souls of fallen comrades, who return home and reincarnate to be known again in the next life.

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    There is a Dorsai novel (Soldier, Ask Not) in which the protagonist is a non-Dorsai journalist, but it doesn't fit with most of the details described here.
    – Buzz
    Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 8:15
  • 1
    Reminds me of the Sardaukar and the Fremen Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 15:35
  • And as for the Fremen... acoup.blog/2020/01/17/…
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 18:52

1 Answer 1


This is the Regiment trilogy by John Dalmas. The book you read is the first book just called The Regiment.

The Regiment

The planet Tyss has only one resource: soldiers. But they are very good soldiers. And once a regiment is formed, it never recruits again; as its members fall in battle, it simply grows smaller to become a battalion, a company, a platoon, a squad . . . and then there are none. But before the last man of this regiment has flung himself into battle, the Federation of Worlds will never be the same.

The reporter is Varlik 681 Lormagen. He is sent to cover a war on a planet called Kettle, which is where he first meets the T'swa mercenaries.

The contracts are discussed when Lormagen interviews a T'swi commander called Voker:

"Their contracts specify that they operate on their own, subject only to agreed-upon objectives. And they don't hesitate to refuse assignments if they don't fit the contract terms."

"The thing to do with T'swa is, first you know the contract thoroughly, then pick something you need done that no one else can do and that fits the contract terms, which are broad enough. Then you tell them to do it. Nothing hard about that. House-to-house combat, for example: they're great for cleaning out a town. Or fighting in wild country. But to use them, it helps to have a couple teaspoons of imagination."

I don't think the T'swa have psi powers, and there is no mention of reincarnation in the book, but with the clue provided by Winchell Chung in a comment I have found the section describing how they see the souls of the dead. Lormagen is interviewing a T'swi called Kusu:

"At the communications center they told me the regiment had lost twenty-nine killed and sixty-one wounded, but they said there weren't any missing. How could anyone tell the killed from the missing in the dark like that, pulling out the way we did?"

In the moonlight, the black face seemed to smile very slightly. "We have our method."

"Is it-all right to tell me about it?"

"Certainly. But you might prefer not to know."

The answer froze Varlik's mind for a moment. Then, "I see," he said, not seeing at all. "I would like to know."

The dead come to us as spirits, thus we know who they are. All the rest returned physically. Thus no prisoners, no missing."

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    And at one point Lormaegen asks the mercenaries how are they sure none of them were left behind after a fighting retreat. He is told that the souls of the killed mercenaries appear to the living to check in before they depart for reincarnation Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 12:16
  • 1
    @WinchellChung Thanks :-) With that clue I managed to find that part of the book. Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 13:55

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