A slightly different review than ones I’ve normally done in the past as for this book I’ve been compiling thoughts and feelings as I read through the book. As such there might be some jumping around as different scenes are introduced but I’ll try to ensure that any spoilers are kept to a minimum so that I don’t ruin your enjoyment.
First impressions – this one was a bit different to what I expected as it offered a form of warfare that I absolutely did not expect to read about in a SciFi context. Namely that of trench warfare a’la World War I with a no-mans-land in between competing armies.
- … waves of charging faceless foes … what you’d expect from the Chinese or North Koreans’ perhaps? Russian pragmatism and imperialism against an implacable alien aggressor. Excellent writing and gets right to the meat of the matter without messing about.
- Advancement by service – war against the enemy is a long struggle as it allows more and more nobles to be created, no incentive to defeat the enemy. New foes are introduced that change the whole landscape and the existing system does not want to send enough forces to truly make a difference.
- Penal battalion is sent in with unfamiliar leadership, weaponry and training and are all expected to make a difference. Weapons however are new to the battlefront as they are equipment that while obsolete to the Sigg Empire, are new and radical in form to the Vasilov. Will they make the difference when crewed by criminals, thugs and other radicals?
- Way of battle itself is different as Sigg forces represent World War II forces or perhaps even more modern combat veterans in terms of tactics and strategy whereas Vasilov forces and their enemies (the Kadan an insect like race) are very much of the World War I mindset and based on trenches.
- The bogemen to truly fear are the Emflife – synthetic beings that seem to be able to take on the shape and form of anything they want. They can reconstruct themselves after seeming death and are not only blazingly fast, but are seeming invulnerable to all but the heaviest of weapons.
- Earth has created “the order of Terra” – a group of individuals tasked with policing and protecting Humanity in this hostile environment. Hidden in plain site, Vasilov – the founder of the empire – was one of them and they are not only aware of the Emflife, they are actively combating them.
- Emflife created by the Ken-Tek … Ken-Tek also the founders or mentors of the humans that are part of the order of Terra. They feel responsible for what they have unleashed upon the Universe and while they will not provide technological assistance to “lesser” species they will still assist how and where they can and will provide guidance.
- Very short chapters with lots of action. Several different characters and points of view can sometimes get confusing, but as the story progresses they come into focus. Some small typographical errors here and there, but overall very easy to read. Character growth non-existant for for all but one or two characters as the others are all fairly well established already.
I won’t give too much away in terms of details as I really think this is one that you should pick up and read yourself. Humanity has managed to expand the boundaries by settling multiple different planets through a series of Stargates. While there is interstellar transit also, it is limited and focused more on transit of heavy equipment versus individuals.
On one of the planets the Vasilov empire gated to, they came across a hostile species – the Kadan – that immediately attacked. Forced to occupy a series of static defenses, the humans managed to initially drive back the enemy. However instead of routing them fully, the hereditary forces of the Vasilov took advantage of the Kadan as a unifying force and created a situation where only through leadership and service against the common enemy could a peasant advance to a title. Stalemated in three different places on the planet, the Kadan and Vasilov are forced into trench style warfare where the Kadan act and attack in multiple kamikaze raids only being driven off after massive casualties.
One of the Vasilov Colonels’ however has seen a different way of fighting … a more modern way between the Sigg (another Human Empire in another part of space) and yet another race of aliens. The Sigg with their more modern tactics and focus on technology instead of manpower were successful in their war – so successful in fact that they have demobilized after defeating their enemy and the Vasilov Colonel has managed to acquire a battalion of obsolete armor at literally junk prices.
Unfortunately the Vasilov high command does not believe in the Colonel’s plan and instead of regular soldiers, they instead only give him the dregs of the army … prisoners, drug addicts and convicts and a timetable of two weeks to make a difference in a war that has gone on for decades!
Not sure if you got it from my bullet points above but I really, really enjoyed this book. It was extremely fast paced and action packed and you absolutely felt like you were in the midst of the action. While there were some typo’s and writing errors they weren’t glaringly obvious and didn’t detract from the pace of the book.
The enemy are truly fearsome and the capabilities shown by the Emflife are actually quite scary. I quite liked Tomi (one of the key characters) and I’m glad to see his growth and progression with the company. The technology is understandable – no real superweapons here – and you don’t get the problems that you do with other series where each chapter has another new weapon or defense introduced. Problems with equipment and the struggle of war are quite evident.
This is a good one … I’d definitely recommend it.
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