Reviews: Nagata, Linda

The Prodigal Stranger

The Last Good Man — Linda Nagata

Linda Nagata’s 2017 The Last Good Man is a standalone milSF novel.

Four months after Fatima Atwan was kidnapped by El-Hashem’s Al-Furat Coalition, the US State Department has done nothing to rescue her. Fatima’s desperate father turns to military contractor Requisite Operations to do what the State Department either can not or will not do: save the young woman.

By law, Requisite Operations (RO) cannot deliver a ransom. What the law will let them do is attempt a foray into the chaos left after Daesh’s collapse, a foray to retrieve Fatima. Hussam El-Hashem1 may be a mere bandit using religion as justification for robbery and slavery, but he’s no idiot. Not only is his location secret, it changes on a weekly basis.

It would take extraordinary resources to find him. Luckily for Fatima, RO has those resources.

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Evening of Another Day

Light and Shadow: Eight Short Stories by Linda Nagata — Linda Nagata

2016’s Light and Shadow: Eight Short Stories by Linda Nagata collects eight of Linda Nagata’s short pieces. Straightforward, that.

Nagata’s career began in 19871, but the focus of this collection is on recent work, published after the years-long hiatus that divides her career in two.

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A Thief in the Night

Going Dark — Linda Nagata
Red, book 3

2015’s Going Dark is the third and final volume in Linda Nagata’s Red Trilogy.

As far as the world is concerned, James Shelly died when his space plane was blown out of the sky. But he isn’t dead; he’s just gone undercover. He’s a member of ETM Strike Squad 7-1, an elite strike force formed to combat existential threats.

7-1 is beyond covert, not listed in any official records, staffed by the officially dead, funded with a fortune stolen from a mad billionaire. Missions are selected by the enigmatic Red. In theory, all of them involve crises that could end human civilization. But there is a catch:

The Red is not infallible. It is not all powerful. It is not even human.

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Every Step You Take

The Trials — Linda Nagata
The Red, book 2

2015’s near-future MilSF novel The Trials, the second volume in Linda Nagata’s The Red trilogy, picks up where First Light left off.

SPOILER WARNING: if you haven’t read the first book yet, this review may reveal too much. You may want to minimize this browser window, buy and read the first book, and then return to the review. Just saying.

In First Light, James Shelley’s Apocalypse Squad, a unit of elite, enhanced soldiers, acted resolutely to punish the highly connected billionaire who orchestrated Coma Day, a series of tactical nuclear strikes on the US. Heroes all! It’s kind of a shame that soldiers taking it on themselves to kidnap an American and transport her to a foreign court so that she can be tried for crimes against humanity is what the army calls “highly illegal,” The surviving members of the LCS are be rewarded with what the army calls “a court martial.”

And the penalty for conviction is death.


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There could be no mercy in the application of Commonwealth law.

The Bohr Maker — Linda Nagata
Nanotech Succession, book 1

1995’s The Bohr Maker was Linda Nagata’s debut novel, followed eight months later by Tech Heaven, which shares a common background with The Bohr Maker. Two strong novels in the course of a year is an effective way to get my attention; how annoying that I would then have to wait until 1997 for her third novel….

Many are those who revere Kirstin Adair, Chief of the Commonwealth Police, for her unending efforts to protect Mother Earth from the threats posed to Gaea by modern nanotechnology (or makers). Few of those admirers revere her quite as energetically as Kirstin adores herself.

Nikko Jiang-Tibayan is an outlier. Even though he sometimes shares Kirstin’s bed, he is not among those who admire her ideals. He himself is an example of just the sort of tampering in god’s domain that the Commonwealth’s laws were intended to eradicate.

And while Nikko was temporarily granted a waiver allowing him to exist at all, that waiver had a time limit—and that time limit is about to run out.

Not to worry! Nikko has a cunning plan.

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Found amongst the rushes

Skye-Object 3270a — Linda Nagata
Deception Well, book 3

2010’s Skye-Object 3270a is a late addition to Nagata’s Nanotech Chronicles1. While it shares a setting with 1998’s Deception Well, this book can be read as a standalone. It is explicitly intended for a younger audience than Vast.

Despite the “object” in her name, Skye-Object isn’t a what but a who, a young woman.

Her odd name is a reminder of her history; she was found, as a toddler, in suspended animation in a starship’s lifeboat. The astronomer who first noticed it had tagged it as Sky Object 3270a. Skye’s rescuers were never able to determine the lifeboat’s origin or Skye’s original name. They were kind enough to give Skye a new home in the city of Silk.

The rescuers can make an educated guess as to why Skye’s parents cast her into the deeps of space. Unfortunately, that guess is … incomplete.

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Someone to watch over us

The Red: First Light — Linda Nagata
Red Trilogy, book 1

Linda Nagata’s Nebula-nominated The Red: First Light is the first volume in Linda Nagata’s Red Trilogy.

At first glance, life in Nagata’s near-future seems pretty sweet. Many of the civil liberties that have long been such an onerous burden to hard-working Americans have been set aside, allowing them to focus on more important matters. Lieutenant James Shelley is a fine example: in another life he might have wasted his life as a political activist, agitating against wars and other profitable activities. In this life, his first attempt at political activism prompted a firm response from the government that stands in loco parentis over all its subjects. One plea bargain later and Shelly became a hard-working member of America’s military forces serving overseas.

If that wasn’t wonderful enough, the same advances in neurological interfaces that allow Shelley and his fellow soldiers to function as a Linked Combat Squad allow his minders to keep an eye on what he is doing, or even feeling, pretty much 24/7.

There is, however, one glitch in the program.


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