I’m a sucker for a good military science fiction story. The best that I have ever read–classics–are Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein (the book, not the movie!) and The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.
Well, there’s a new storyteller in town.
I first came across Terms of Enlistment, the first book in Marko Kloos’ Frontlines Series, a year or two ago. Judging a book by its cover (which I wasn’t that impressed with), and the fact that it was self-published (another mistake by me) told me not to expect much. I was very pleasantly surprised. Not only was the action great, the dialogue and characterization realistic, but Kloos impressed me on his ability to tell a futuristic military story in a way that made me actually believe he knew what was going on.
Now Lines of Departure continues that story. And it’s a great one.
The story is dark and multifaceted. Kloos has painted a future where the world is overpopulated (30 billion) with about a hundred colonies in space. In addition to the world being divided between the North American Commonwealth (NAC) and the Sino-Russian Alliance (SRA), both governments just about as corrupt as each other, there are constant riots by starving civilians that have to be put down by the military. On top of this, the colonies start getting hit by an alien race referred to as the Lankies. These are very bad dudes: 80 feet tall and impervious to small arms fire; you have to use a rocket launcher or multiple grenades to bring one down. What’s worse is that they arrive at Earth colonies and immediately begin terraforming them so that within two weeks, humans have to learn to breathe carbon dioxide or, well, you get the idea. Finally, the Lankies spaceships are so large and tough that not even nuclear weapons are able to bring them down.
Lines of Departure start with Staff Sargeant Grayson reenlisting in the military, mainly because he would otherwise have to go back to the ghettos of Boston, now with a population of 30 million. The book starts with a raid by him and a squad onto a Lankey-occupied colony, where the squad calls down a tactical nuclear strike on a community there. The book ends with him stuck on colony that is in the throes of revolution, interrupted by an invasion by the SRA, which in turn is interrupted by the Lankeys. Fun stuff.
But the thing I enjoyed most of all by him was a section in the middle where he goes on shore leave to visit his mother and then his girlfriend, who becomes his fiancee. Kloos does a good job of painting a world where options are rapidly being taken away from people, and more and more actions are the results of desperation. It’s a bleak, black world, one where heroism by common soldiers can mean a great deal.
This is book two of a series, and I am very much looking forward to his upcoming books.
Even though I still don’t like his covers, I give this five stars out of five.