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Reviews in Project: Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck (33)

Children of Empire

Cross Fire  (Exo, book 2)

By Fonda Lee

12 Jun, 2018

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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2018’s Cross Fire is the second volume in Fonda Lee’s Exo series. 

While the crisis in the previous novel was successfully handled, that did not bring Donovan Reyes’s father back to life, nor did it resolve the fundamental problem of how to reconcile the Commonwealth’s strategic goals with Earth’s defensive needs. Earth is, after all, merely one of a great many worlds in the Mur Erzen Commonwealth and not a particular rich one. Defending it from the Rii could prove expensive. 

The zhree who invaded Earth have a simple, economically justifiable plan: abandon the Earth to their rapacious cousins. 

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Cause I Can’t Say No

Hullmetal Girls

By Emily Skrutskie

2 Apr, 2018

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

6 comments

Emily Skrutskie’s 2018 Hullmetal Girls is a standalone SF novel.

Three centuries ago, a fleet set out from the Solar System determined to find a new world to replace the one they had squandered. Worlds sufficiently Earth-like to support a human population proved rare; to date the only one known is the previous, pre-trashed Earth. Generations after launch, the fleet has settled into a regimented seven-tiered society. Life in first tier, where the administrators live, is tolerable. Life in the impoverished seventh tier is short.

Having learned the hard way that heavy weapons are a poor way to maintain peace in an environment one hull-breach away from mass death, the ruling General Body has turned enforcement over to an elite force of cyborgs, the Scela. Conversion is dangerous, even for teens, and only highly motivated people volunteer to become Scela. Poverty-stricken Aisha Un-Haad, for example, is determined to earn enough to pay for her brother’s medical treatment and to keep her little sister out of the dye factory.

First-tier teen Key Tanaka could not tell you why she volunteered, although her reasons were likely not financial. Where her pre-conversion memories should be is a great blank. Whatever her reasons for submitting to the operation, they must have been compelling.


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Slack Your Rope Hangman

Exo

By Fonda Lee

26 Sep, 2017

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

3 comments

Fonda Lee’s 2017 Exo is a standalone young-adult SF adventure novel. (No, this is not a review of Steven Gould’s Exo, even if my editor wishes it were.)

Earth is a colony of the Mur Commonwealth, a colony protected by its benevolent zhree overlords from their rapacious Rii cousins. Most humans, secure in their placid second-class existence, regard the brutal resistance that first met the zhree as a regrettable mistake. For the insurgents of the Sapience, the resistance is an inspiration.

Teenager Donovan Reyes is a loyal soldier for the zhree: an elite soldier, hardened with alien biotechnology. Donovan and those like him are charged with maintaining the peace in West America. His enhancements provide Donovan and his comrades with the durability, speed, and lethality required to protect the squishies,” as the soldiers deem the unenhanced humans, from their own worst impulses.

A moment of poor judgment lets the insurgents capture Donovan. Sapience’s policy is to brutally murder any soldiers they capture, pour encourager les autres. Donovan’s prospects are dim — or they would be if not for the fact that in addition to being a willing ally of the zhree, he is also the only son of West America’s Prime Liaison Reyes. Donovan has considerable hostage value.

The Reyes government does not negotiate with terrorists. 

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Ain’t Nobody Got Spies Like Us

Sungrazer  (Outriders, book 2)

By Jay Posey

5 Sep, 2017

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

2 comments

Sungrazer is the second book in Jay Posey’s Outriders series.

The United States may be just one part of the pole-to-pole United American Federation, but Americans still have their own covert programs. One of them is SUNGRAZER, a stealth satellite orbiting ten million kilometers from Mars. SUNGRAZER is self-contained and self-directed. It collects useful data re the Martian colonies for the US; it can also deliver between fifteen to three hundred kinetic strikes, strikes ranging from simple block-busters to city killers. Which would terrify the Martians if they knew about it.

A decade into its long term mission, SUNGRAZER vanishes from American ken. Someone has taken control of the US asset, sending it off in a direction the Americans cannot detect, for a purpose about which they can only speculate. 

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The Prodigal Stranger

The Last Good Man

By Linda Nagata

22 Jul, 2017

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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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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Scrawled Upon My Soul

Raven Stratagem  (Machineries of Empire, book 2)

By Yoon Ha Lee

18 Jul, 2017

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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2017’s Raven Stratagem is the second novel in Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire series. The first novel in the series, Ninefox Gambit, was reviewed here. Readers are well advised to read Ninefox Gambit before reading Raven Stratagem.

The Hexarchate is far too sensible to rely on the obedience of soldiers with free will. Instead, every soldier of the Kel has no choice in the matter, thanks to formation instinct conditioning. To see a superior officer is to be compelled to obey them. It’s a system designed to make mutiny impossible. For the person wearing senior officer Cheris’ body, it means that taking control of the Swanknot shipswarm is merely a matter of establishing that they are the undead General Shuos Jedao. Once they believe they are confronted with a general with three centuries of seniority, the hapless soldiers have no choice but to obey.

By the time the Hexarchate’s rulers discover what Jedao has done, he and his little fleet are long gone.

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Peacekeeper, Take Your Time

A Peace Divided  (Peacekeeper, book 2)

By Tanya Huff

3 Jun, 2017

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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2017’s A Peace Divided  is the second novel in Tanya Huff’s Peacekeeper series.

War’s end means that many former soldiers are dumped back into civilian life. Not all of the veterans are suited to peacetime occupations. Some, like Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr and her team, find gainful employment as Wardens, the interstellar police of the Confederation. Less fortunate cast-offs, like Commander Yurrisk and his soldiers, become bandits and mercenaries. 

33X73’s natives vanished long before the Confederation was formed. Even at their height, they never got close to star-flight or Elder-Race-level technology. Why then did Yurrisk’s mercenaries attack and occupy an archaeological dig on 33X73

The fact that the attackers are drawn from both Confederation and Primacy forces is a clue. Though rivals, the two polities do have a mutual enemy: the so-called plastic aliens. 33X73 offers a unique opportunity to hit back at the enemy. 

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Follow, Follow

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps

By Kai Ashante WIlson

16 May, 2017

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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Kai Ashante Wilson’s 2015 The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is set in the same universe as his A Taste of Honey (reviewed here).

Long ago, the gods fled Earth, leaving their mortal offspring behind. The demigods are too weighted by flesh to ascend, but have great powers in the mortal realm. 

One demigod, the Captain, uses his gifts to lead a company of mercenaries. Demane, also semi-divine, is one of his soldiers. Demane is hopelessly smitten with the Captain and follows him despite having no real taste for the life of a mercenary. His fellow soldiers are wary of him; they call him a sorcerer, even though he tries to conceal his gifts.

Both men’s gifts will be needed to get the mercenaries and the merchants they are guarding through the Wildeeps. Well, at least some of the mercenaries and some of the merchants. 

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Searching for Light

An Ancient Peace  (Peacekeeper, book 1)

By Tanya Huff

26 Apr, 2017

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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Set in the same Confederation universe as her Valor novels, 2015’s An Ancient Peace is the first volume in Tanya Huff’s Peacekeeper series.

A covert op seems like a useful application of the skills of Torin Kerr’s elite squad … as well as a welcome distraction from the revelation that the war that killed so many was an enigmatic civilization’s science project. And it’s not as if the op is unimportant: the future of the human and other Younger races may depend on what it finds.

Archaeology sounds so harmless.

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A Thief in the Night

Going Dark  (Red, book 3)

By Linda Nagata

15 Sep, 2016

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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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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