Suh’s People

Outriders — Jay Posey

outriders

Although professional-game-designer-turned-SF-author Jay Posey has been publishing novels ever since 2013, 2016’s Outriders is the first novel of his that I have read.

Given a choice between two very different career paths, Captain Lincoln Suh took the one that led him to join the 301st Information Support Brigade’s 519th Applied Intelligence Group. The unit’s name may seem to promise days of riveting paperwork and nights spent staring at glowing screens, but names can be deceptive, particularly in the intelligence game.

Thus the suit of powered armour the 519 th issues Suh.


The 519 th’s remit includes both intelligence collection and something the 519’s commander Colonel Alemeida euphemistically calls “direct action operations.” Direct action doesn’t necessarily involve shooting people, but it can—which task makes an experienced, elite soldier like Suh very useful to the 519 th.

A large part of the intelligence game is connecting the right dots. Take dot one (the apparent mob-hit on Mars that took the lives of a group of mooks and an unlucky Terran) and dot two (the asteroid collision that turned a small space station into scrap). They seem unrelated, if you don’t know that the unlucky Terran was a United American Federation intelligence agent and that Veryn-Hakakuri Station YN-773 was code-named LOCKSTEP and was a Federation intelligence asset.

Just because two events could be related doesn’t mean that they are. It’s up to Suh and his colleagues to find out if there really is a connection and if there is, what purpose the attacks serve. It’s a problem that will take the team from Earth to the Moon and into deep space, from peacetime to the brink of interplanetary war.

 ~oOo~

I hesitate to mention this for fear of invoking Nicoll’s Law , but one of the world-building issues the author wrestles with in this story is the question of stealth in space. At the risk of losing my “stealth in space is really very challenging” cred, Posey’s solution to how one sneaks up on someone else in space seems perfectly reasonable. I won’t explain what it is, because it’s a plot point, but it was a great relief not to read another book that seems to require space be filled with dense fog.

I am not entirely certain how far in the future this is set. On the one hand, almost none of the technology seems out of the question for the 21 st century [1] … but on the other, not only has the Earth congealed into the United American Federation and the Eastern Coalition but Mars has been settled and become a nation-state in its own right. This passage

For some reason, her great-grandparents’ generation had celebrated just for getting off Earth, and her grandparents’ generation seemed to think colonizing Mars had made them a space-faring race.

suggests this could be as near-future as 2057, if “getting off Earth” = Sputnik. If “getting off Earth” means our current efforts, then we’re talking early 22 nd century.

The one game-changing tech development is a minor detail in this novel, but will no doubt be a more significant one in any sequels: the UAF has the ability to copy people’s minds into replica bodies, which means death is but a temporary inconvenience. This detail may come out of the author’s computer-gaming background, in which death only means the player needs to respawn his character. Suh is nowhere near as alarmed by the military application of this technology as he should be. Does Posey want Eternity Brigades ? Because that’s how you get Eternity Brigades.

Posey is very careful to avoid sorting all the characters into white-hat good guys and black-hat bad guys. True, the antagonists seem to trying to provoke an interplanetary war, while Suh and his team are trying to stop them. The people Suh works for, however, are not necessarily opposed to the idea of war, only to being maneuvered into one by someone else. The antagonists kill hundreds of people, mostly innocents, but the AUF has killed millions in previous wars.

In the end, the novel does give Suh and his team a victory, but both Suh and the reader are left pondering the moral skeeviness of Suh’s Federation bosses. In the short run, however, our hero and his team have survived… and Suh still cares about his team. That has to be good enough for now, because that is all he is getting. At least in this novel.

Outriders can be purchased here.

1: Mind you, trying to date a story by its military hardware can be challenging. For example, knowing that a hypothetica story features operational B-52 Stratofortresses narrows the date down to 1950-204x.


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