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Reviews in Project: Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck (39)

Whatever happened to Jani?

Rules of Conflict  (Jani Kilian Chronicles, volume 2)

By Kristine Smith  

28 May, 2016

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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Kristine Smith’s 2000 novel Rules of Conflict is the second volume of her Jani Kilian Chronicles.

Jani Kilian is a cautious woman for very good reasons. Until now, her caution has served her well, keeping her out of the clutches of Commonwealth military services. This time her healthy paranoia betrays her. Fearing her allies, she walks into a trap and is recaptured.

Although recaptured” is not quite the right word. She wakes to discover she is not a prisoner. She is a patient. 

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Every Step You Take

The Trials  (The Red, volume 2)

By Linda Nagata  

13 Jan, 2016

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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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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Enter Jani Kilian

Code of Conduct  (Chronicles of Jani Kilian, volume 1)

By Kristine Smith  

17 Dec, 2015

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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1999’s Code of Conduct is the first volume in Kristine Smith’s Chronicles of Jani Kilian pentology. This review is almost certainly going to be one of my Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn’t Suck reviews … but only because it has some MisSF elements, not because it checks all the genre boxes. Code of Conduct is as much detective fiction as it is MilSF; it is definitely not the big-guns, pew-pew-pew variety of MilSF. 

As far as anyone from the Commonwealth knows, Jani Kilian died when a military transport starship exploded. Everyone else onboard perished; Jani was only mostly dead. Immediate, cutting-edge medical intervention saved her life. Since her supposed death, Jani has been careful not to let her former bosses know that she is still alive. That would put her in legal peril, as she was confined to the brig was a prisoner(for having shot her highly-connected superior officer) before the explosion. 

Jani’s ex-lover Evan van Reuter doesn’t believe Jani is dead. As a member of one of the Families who run the Commonwealth, he has the resources to find her. He is also highly motivated to track Jani down. He has a job for which he believes she is ideally suited. 

Clearing his name. 


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How Chi Kim Spent His Holidays

Duty After School

By Il-Kwon Ha  

1 Oct, 2015

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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This week’s unexpected discovery is Ha Il-Kwon’s webtoon Duty After School, recommended in one of the many, many, very long comment threads over File770, in the context of works worthy of a Hugo.” I had planned to limit myself to a quick glance, which is how my archive binges always begin.…

Being a high school student is stressful enough; if you’re not swotting to pass university entrance exams, you’re probably trying to figure out what real world job to try for after graduation. And you have to deal with crushes, friendships, and the adolescent pecking order. Happily for Chi Kim and his fellow students of Sungdong high school, life hands them an effective distraction.

Less happily, it’s in the form of an alien invasion.


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THERE IS NO GOD BUT GOD AND SKASKASH IS ITS PROPHET!

The Rosinante Trilogy

By Alexis A. Gilliland  

15 Sep, 2015

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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Alexis Gilliland is a four time Hugo winner — but not for his written fiction. Only his 1982 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer was for fiction; his fellow nominees were Robert Stallman, Paul O. Williams, David Brin, and Michael Swanwick 1. You may have heard of some of these guys. When he won, Gilliland had just two novels in print 2.

You may be wondering How did someone with such a small body of work manage to win the Campbell?” 

Partly it’s because most Campbell nominees tend to have only small bodies of work when they win, due to the whole New Writer thing. Cynics might say that Gilliland’s long career as fan and lauded fan artist ensured name recognition. But I would credit his Campbell win to the fact that those two novels, The Revolution from Rosinante and Long Shot For Rosinante , really are fun little books, books I was certain I would not regret revisiting after a gap of twenty-two years 3.

(I do understand that’s like saying Don’t worry, I know what I am doing” while playing with burning plastic.) 

They are also the first two volumes in the Rosinante Trilogy, the subject of today’s review. 

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It’s about soldiers,” he said. They fight, then they have sex, then they do drugs, then they fight some more.”

War Games  (Hybrid Wars, volume 1)

By Karl Hansen  

19 Aug, 2015

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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It’s a good thing that the title for this review series is Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn’t Suck and not, say, Military Speculative Fiction That is an Exemplar of All That is Good in Fiction. I’m not sure that I would say that Karl Hansen’s 1981 War Games is good. That may be too positive a word for this enthusiastically nihilistic war story. The book has definite points of interest — but I am not 100% sure I would call it good. 

But it sure is energetic.

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Lady Elaine, please remember to order your bride-sized fridge

Space Viking  (Space Viking, volume 1)

By H. Beam Piper  

13 Aug, 2015

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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I will probably review all of my H. Beam Piper novels (or at least the SF ones) eventually. I have a specific reason for reviewing 1962’s Space Viking this week. A reason I will not explain until Friday. Foreshadowing! The mark of quality literature!

Speaking of foreshadowing, when Lady Elaine warns her husband-to-be Lucas, Lord Trask, Baron of Traskon that 

It’s bad luck to be called by your married name before the wedding.”

Trask should have listened. For that matter, every aristocrat on the planet Gram should have noticed just how crazy Lord Andray Dunnan was, and what a bad idea it was to allow Dunnan to assemble his own private army. Elaine and Trask in particular have good reason to be worried: through no fault of her own, Elaine plays a central role in Dunnan’s rich fantasy life. But … Dunnan is the nephew of Duke Angus, who is poised to make himself king of all Gram. Dunnan is too well-connected to be shot out of hand, so everyone tacitly tolerates his obvious craziness.

Then everything goes pear-shaped. Dunnan’s men hijack the starship Enterprise; in retrospect, the purpose for which Dunnan recruited all those mercenaries. Dunnan tries to assassinate Elaine (for rejecting him) and Trask (for winning her) before fleeing in the Enterprise. Dunnan’s mistake is to kill Elaine, but only wound Trask. While the aristocracy of Gram may not be inclined to pursue their vendetta into space, nothing will stop Trask from chasing Dunnan to the ends of the galaxy. 

Chasing is easy enough. Actually finding Dunnan, on the other hand.…


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Someone to watch over us

The Red: First Light  (Red Trilogy, volume 1)

By Linda Nagata  

29 Jul, 2015

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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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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Trapped in a warzone

Trading in Danger  (Vatta’s War, volume 1)

By Elizabeth Moon  

1 Jul, 2015

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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If I am going to review MilSF that doesn’t suck, at some point I need to address the Elizabeth Moon issue. On the one hand her books (or at least some of them) are clearly candidates. On the other hand, many of them have been published by Baen, whose publisher is a willing participant in this year’s attempt to nobble the Hugos. Baen is a company whose works I don’t review. A company that’s dead to me. 

However … thanks to various events that are Googleable, Moon moved over to Del Rey. That company is not colluding in an attempt to nobble the Hugos and is not dead to me. The system works! 

2003’s Trading in Danger kicks off Moon’s Vatta’s War series. Well-meaning Ky Vatta is booted out of the naval academy when a well-meaning attempt to help a friend results in a PR-disaster for the service. The navy doesn’t consider meant well” a defense. Former cadet Ky finds herself on the curb outside the Academy, waiting for a ride home. 

This is a bold opening gambit if the series as a whole is supposed to be military science fiction. 


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