Marko Kloos is one of the authors that Himself has mentioned more than once, so when I asked for more science fiction reads for Sci Fi Month, he suggested I read this series.
The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to two thousand calories of badly flavored soy every day. You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service. With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price…and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.
I really enjoyed this one. Kloos is clearly a talented and experienced author, who gives us a sympathetic, slightly taciturn protagonist with something of an edge, especially when things were going wrong and that edge turns into dark humour. Grayson tucks into boot camp and prepares to tough it out – not that he finds it too much of a struggle, given the dire conditions in the tenement where he grew up. I’m a sucker for school/learning environments, given what a pressure cooker they can be and was perfectly willing for the whole thing to last a lot longer than it did. When the story moved on and Grayson progresses from being a trainee to becoming a newbie, I enjoyed it. The action is engrossing and feels authentic, with the detailed worldbuilding.
And then came a pivotal moment in the narrative when it all hits the fan and the story takes a left turn into something completely different. I couldn’t put it down. My heart was beating and my palms sweated as I read one of the best battle scenes I’ve encountered during a sortie that goes terribly wrong…
As I came to the conclusion of the scene, I looked at the book, surprised we weren’t closer to the end of the book – surely this was the climactic showpiece to this slice of the story? No – what Kloos then does is change the pacing again and take the story off into another direction. Grayson is then given a different set of challenges that give us further insights into his character, before finishing this excellent start to the series. I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into the next book.
Highly recommended for fans of military science fiction adventures.