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on 16 April 2013
I was recommended this from reading Charlie Stross's blog as the Linda Nagata is guest blogging while Charlie is down under. Military Sci-Fi is something that I tend to enjoy, so much so that I've written some of it and regularly wargame in that genre.

This one was a very compelling near future story, told in a first person narrative by a not entirely volunteer US Army Lieutenant. The protagonist is the leader of a 'linked combat squad' who are a sort of specialised infantry with an exo-skeleton controlled by an external skull cap that can read (and affect) their brain states. From what I know of current and proposed military capabilities this is an entirely believable future, just a little into future from now (perhaps a decade or two, but happily non-specific so that we don’t fall into the trap of outdating the story when the technology doesn't go mainstream by the date given).

The premise is that there is something nudging people to make decisions, and influencing the options that they are being presented with. We first see this in the person of the protagonist, Lt Shelley, who gets premonition flashes about the presence of an enemy which allows him to react just in time. In particular one of the more overt interventions of this unexplained presence is a loss of contact from 'guidance' at a crucial moment.

Avoiding spoilers, the story was very tightly written and kept me turning pages, to the extent that I stayed up late reading, got the bus from the station to the office so I could keep reading and only put it down when I got to my desk and had to start working (I read in the lift and walking along the corridor). It was told at a good pace, with a few good twists and turns to keep it interesting and having you wonder what was happening next.

Happily there is a planned sequel, which I'll be acquiring when it comes out.
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on 25 May 2013
Somehow I'd never heard of Linda Nagata before I ran across her on Twitter recently - very glad I randomly clicked on a sample chapter of this on her site now because it's hands down one of the best things I've read in ages.
I don't read a massive amount of military SF but this was exactly what I was in the mood for - hypercompetent characters, slightly compromised (and slightly enhanced) and doing their best to survive a variety of situations. Shelley's narrative voice won me over almost instantly - he's someone who almost always knows what to do (I love how the undercurrent of engrained training just sits under everything he thinks without being showy) and who wants to do the right thing, but he's very human about it. There's also the small problem of some other party influencing his thoughts via the data connection - mostly intervening to keep him and his team alive, but how far can you really trust something you can't understand?
The layers of the plot revolve around pretty contemporary problems (most people stress about lost data connections quite regularly...!) but with glimpses of a subtly different future world that includes more than just America (I really liked the tension of the Africa section at the start).
I'm intrigued to see where the sequel will go and will be hunting down some more of the author's back catalogue (I think she says two of her unrelated short stories inspired this book?)
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on 17 May 2014
This novel was nominated for a Nebula Award. I can see why: It's a science-fiction buffet, with something for most any type of SF-lover.

The story is set in a near-future, when the world essentially runs via interconnectedness in "The Cloud". Wars have become highly commercialised and commoditised: they are openly started and perpetuated by Defence Contractor Companies as a way of generating revenue, profits, and power. But one mercenary, in charge of an elite fighting force, discovers that there may be an even more powerful, mysterious presence (The "Red") pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Fans of Military SF can enjoy the battle action and the characters, who "speak" with an authentic military voice and attitude. Fans of the "science" part of SF will be interested in the explanations of communications, nanotech, armour, and weaponry -- which are detailed enough to provide a believable basis for the story, without becoming tedious in their intricacy. Those who appreciate thoughtful analysis of world politics, Big Business machinations, and sociological implications can also find plenty of substance here. There is also a bit of a relationship side plot, which the author manages to explore without (thankfully!) descending into sappiness.

The book has a satisfying ending, but it is clearly also a setup for The Red: Trials, the next book in the series (which I will be reading as soon as it is released).
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VINE VOICEon 28 November 2015
Easily one of the best novels I've read this year, The Red is an adrenaline junkie's ride laced with uncommon depth and intellect.

James Shelley is a brave soldier in a near-future setting where squads are linked by technology. Directly hard wired into the brains of our troops are sophisticated computer technologies that although clearly imagined feel only a short upgrade away from where we are today.

Only like all technology, it's open to abuse. Shelley has been hacked by a mysterious entity called the Red that repeatedly saves his life. Only in saving Shelley, the Red may have made him a target.

The novel opens with a Chris Ryan/Homeland-esque Middle East plot and a battle scenario that is startlingly real.

Nagata's clear strength as a writer is evident in her seamless integration of futuristic elements and an utterly realistic and believable set of circumstances. She cleverly and surely helps us negotiate her imagined technologies so the world she has created remains cogent and logical. Despite being futuristic fiction this novel has an immediacy and realism that achieves what so much sub-standard scifi can't- utter believability.

There are echoes of current politics in the pseudo Syrian conflict, the Anonymous inspired hacker undercurrents, multilayered threat options and political grandstanding.

If you're like me and are an avid news watcher, a fan of Homeland, 24, Strike Back, Continuum, The Matrix and Robocop style imaginings I guarantee this will float your boat as it's a glorious yet unique mash-up of elements of each. It also reminds me a little of the Undead novels of RR Haywood with the detailing of the squad dynamics and fascinating intel on planning and executing crisis procedures. This planning and readying for missions builds incredible excitement for the reader. Kind of like the best heist or spy movies- the planning makes the payoff shine.

Yet what really sets this apart is the obvious intellect behind the writing. Nagata has woven a thinking person's action novel here. The characters are fantastic in their realism, heroism and compassion. The psychology utterly individuated and consistent for each character so they live and breath in your head.

The actual language, tone vocabulary and phraseology are also a real treat. Its rare to find an action novel so well written, so complex, choice and nuanced. Despite a notional similarity in audience appeal to, say, a futuristic Jack Reacher, this is definitely better written than Lee Child could ever dream of.

This is a clever, absorbing entertaining and exciting book. I'm immediately downloading The Trials, part 2 of the Red trilogy. Seriously recommended and a novel I will remember for a long time.
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on 17 May 2014
This novel was nominated for a Nebula Award. I can see why: It's a science-fiction buffet, with something for most any type of SF-lover.

The story is set in a near-future, when the world essentially runs via interconnectedness in "The Cloud". Wars have become highly commercialised and commoditised: they are openly started and perpetuated by Defence Contractor Companies as a way of generating revenue, profits, and power. But one mercenary, in charge of an elite fighting force, discovers that there may be an even more powerful, mysterious presence (The "Red") pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Fans of Military SF can enjoy the battle action and the characters, who "speak" with an authentic military voice and attitude. Fans of the "science" part of SF will be interested in the explanations of communications, nanotech, armour, and weaponry -- which are detailed enough to provide a believable basis for the story, without becoming tedious in their intricacy. Those who appreciate thoughtful analysis of world politics, Big Business machinations, and sociological implications can also find plenty of substance here. There is also a bit of a relationship side plot, which the author manages to explore without (thankfully!) descending into sappiness.

The book has a satisfying ending, but it is clearly also a setup for The Red: Trials, the next book in the series (which I will be reading as soon as it is released).
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on 30 May 2013
I was expecting: interesting technology, some good fights. I got these and some rather interesting geopolitics and a cool set up for further books.

Will be interested to see more.
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on 15 May 2013
This books the first I've read in a long time and I would recommend this to everyone I know that's why I've given it 4 stars. A wonderful book I couldn't put it down.
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on 22 May 2016
Well thought out plot, interesting concept, fast paced and action packed.
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on 25 February 2015
Really engaging story, well written.
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