I read one of Nick Cole’s earlier books (CTRL ALT Revolt!) last year and liked it. So, when I heard he was involved in a mil-sf series I figured I’d check it out. It turns out it’s a dual authorship arrangement with Jason Anspach. I ordered it (I like to read books on paper) and read it last week.
I like well-written mil-sf. This is well-written. The story chronicles an elite military unit involved in a supposedly routine diplomatic mission that devolves into a catastrophe. It melds the feel of modern American military in the middle east (ala Black Hawk Down) with lineage going back to Rudyard Kipling’s India stories and translates it into a futuristic landscape of alien creatures, energy weapons and space cruisers. But the technology is definitely beside the point. The story is the camaraderie of men attempting to complete their mission and keep each other alive in an environment where bureaucratic amateur officers are just as dangerous as the enemy.
The protagonist (first person narrative for the most part) is an NCO in the “Legion.” Through his eyes we see his comrades display various strengths and weaknesses and we observe the “regular army” that are combined with the legionnaires on this mission attempting to adapt to a combat role they are unprepared for. And we observe non-combatants and the alien inhabitants of this planet at the “galaxy’s edge.”
If you like military science fiction you’ll probably like this book. If you even just like war stories you might like this book. It is volume one of a series but this book is sort of a stand-alone story. The series chronicles the saga of the Galactic Republic through the eyes of the Legion as an elite force cleaning up the messes being perpetrated by an increasingly autocratic state over its subject worlds at the periphery of the galaxy. Basically, it sounds like the Roman Republic devolving into the Roman Empire. Or is it the American Republic?
As you can probably guess from my comparison with Black Hawk Down, it’s not a happily ever after kind of tale. It’s a down beat story but if you like mil-sf then that’s probably no surprise. If not be warned.
So, here’s my opinion. This is a good stand-alone story. The story develops and the action and the sub-plots unfold in natural way. The characters are interesting and have enough development to allow you to cheer and boo the appropriate actors. I can definitely recommend it. For me the question is do I go forward with a longer series? From what I understand the individual books are separated in time. They document the history of this galactic civilization. Implicitly this means none of the characters will carry over to the next book. Can the authors generate enough new people to populate the series? I think I’ll try the next book in the series and see how that works out. I’ll report back on the next installment when I do.