on 14 February 2013
Another book purchased for my Kindle at a bargain-price.
I'm ex-infantry myself and somewhat critical of 'first-person shooter' novels, no matter when they might be set. They never seem to get it quite right...
However, I was pleasantly surprised by this book - despite being sci-fi, it has a ring of authenticity about it, which to me makes it seem more like some of the autobiographical works to come out of WW2 and Korea, or the conflicts in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan than a work of fiction.
The battle sequences are deftly handled, the action moves along at a good pace and the author has a very good grasp of what it feel like to be under fire and taking casualties.
We were always taught that 'no plan survives first contact with the enemy' or put another way: if it can go wrong, it will - and it's something this author has taken to heart when setting out his set-piece battles. If you've read Heinlein's 'Starship Troopers', the concept of armoured-infantry is nothing new, but the author manages to make it seem a little more believable and takes it up a notch or two.
Aside from a few typos and grammar-glitches which seem to pop up in almost every Kindle book I've ever bought (no matter whether they were purchased free or full-price), I have no qualms about recommending this series to fans of the genre or even to those who just like a good action-yarn.
In fact on finishing this book, I immediately bought the remaining books in the series.
on 1 February 2014
In a preface (to the Crimson Worlds Collection I) the author pays tribute to R.A. Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" and J Haldeman's "The Forever War" as influences. The imprint of the former is certainly evident - the first person narrative of a hero who joins an elite infantry corps that fights on distant planets in powered armour. Even the story layout is the same - kicking off with a sample battle, then backtracking to the hero's early life, enlistment and homicidally-tough training before going onto his involvement in other battles and promotion to officer rank. In "Marines", however, there are more battles, including starship engagements, described in much more tactical detail, and much less space devoted to boot camp and moral philosophy. Also whereas in Heinlein's work a united mankind fights bug-like aliens under an ideal (to the author) government endorsed by his hero, in Allan's future the enemy is human: eight tyrannical Earth superpowers contend for extra-solar colonies, and the hero despises the corrupt Western Alliance regime which he and the Marine Corps serve - this becomes important in the following books of the series. If there is a drawback it is that the first person viewpoint militates against seeing the other side of the hill, although this is somewhat offset by an appendix describing the various powers. Also Allan loses no opportunity to describe the guilt felt by the hero and fellow officers over troops killed under their command until it grates on the reader, while ignoring such issues as PTSD. Overall though a gritty, believable account of future warfare, with plenty of tactical meat for the military SF fan.
This is a good, solid piece of military science fiction. It has no aliens, however. Instead, you get the human forces of the remaining Superpowers fighting against each other in space to control resourceful colonies, with Earth being more or less demilitarised and shattered following the “Unification Wars.”
I will not discuss what the author may or may not have borrowed from Heinlein (Star Troopers) or Halderman (the Eternal War) and quite a few others perhaps, although there are some obvious influences. Neither will I pretend that this title, the first of a series, is original. It clearly brings together many of the stereotypes and clichés that can be found in a number of similar books by other authors but, all in all, the result is rather good and entertaining.
One such stereotype is that of the young recruit who rises up through the ranks and becomes a war hero. Another is the very troubled youth of this young man and his “choice” to enlist rather than to be executed (this is about the third book where I have seen this feature). Other commonly used features include the first person narrative, the “ultra-tough” training that just about three quarters of the candidates seem to fail, the hero falling in love with his doctor and lots of desperate battles that he, of course, survives. As usual also, the war goes badly at first, for the hero’s side, with a number of military disasters including one in which he barely makes it more dead than alive. Of course, you also have the usual piece about the heroic soldiers doing their duty and getting killed for the benefit of an oligarchy of awfully corrupt, privileged and co-opted politicians and corporate executives. These rule the Western Alliance which includes the former United States, Canada, Oceania and Great Britain and oppress the rest of the population in what is essentially a dictatorship. Here again, there is nothing very original and I have probably come across similar features from a good half a dozen other authors.
Although I may have forgotten to mention a few other stereotypes, for instance the enemies seem to be “nasty fanatics” of some totalitarian regime or another, whether the Mohammedan Caliphate or the Central Asian Combine (the Chinese, of course!), I will stop there to concentrate on what made this book into an interesting read despite everything else. If the book had just been made up of this collection of clichés, and I will come back to some of them towards the end of this review, then I would probably have rated it three or perhaps even stars. Instead, I will go for four stars because I believe it has four main things going for it.
One good feature is the battles. Some of them in particular are rather gripping such as the assault of a space station or the fights on a particularly inhospitable world both on the surface and (even more so) underground in the tunnels of strategically valuable mines. This, of course, is a must: a book of military science fiction where the battles do not “feel and sound” real and gripping is unlikely to be very successful.
A second good feature is that you get treated to twenty-third century warfare that mostly “feels and sound” realistic. The campaigns in space are conducted with forces that are mostly limited in size, or even small, given the tremendous cost of space warfare. The Marines are far from invulnerable, despite their heavy armour, even if the casualty rates are so high that one cannot help wonder how the depleted units are still fighting. The author also avoids too much technical descriptions, unlike others who sometimes fell obliged to explain in great detail each piece of military equipment so that their books reads at times like a military manual.
A third interesting feature is the background provided by the author both within the book and in its annexes on the Superpowers and military formations. Even if not entirely original, the picture that is drawn of the grim, harsh and very unequal society of the Western Alliance, with all other societies supposedly being even worse, was a rather stunning one. Also stunning was the contrast between the radioactive ruins of the past glory of New York (the shells of the Downtown skyscrapers in particular) and the derelict uptown on the one hand, with the fortified and relatively privileged Midtown.
Finally, and despite all the clichés, I could not help finding the hero rather sympathetic. This is certainly because he appears to have doubts and lacks self-confidence. It is also because he tends to ask from his troops no more than he is prepared to do (and does) himself. The author shows him as being somewhat traumatised and racked with (undeserved) guilt by previous butcheries. He is ready to do his outmost to minimise casualties among “his” soldiers, even if it means putting his own life on the line – the exact opposite of a thoughtless “glory-hunter”.
on 23 April 2014
A cracking piece of military space opera with great characters, back story and action. Pure escapism that sucks you in and carries you along for an enthralling ride. There are also a number equally good sequels and currently three prequel short novels to keep you occupied but when you have finished them it is a real letdown that there are currently no more to read. The standard remains high throughout the series, unlike some others I have read. My only complaints are that the proof reading was very poor and the mistakes can get on your nerves a bit and some phrases, descriptions etc are a bit repetively used. Highly recommended if you like this sort of thing and worth taking a risk on at this very reasonable price.
on 5 August 2013
I very much enjoyed this book. Once I started it, I couldn't set it down again. As soon as I finished the last line, I immediately bought the rest of the series. I can't wait for the next installment.
The author created a fast paced sci-fi story and created a detailed universe that drew on recent events to develop his futuristic setting. He expands his story by looking at the militaristic, scientific and social attitudes of humanity after a cataclysmic change on our planet and uses this back story to help drive the story forward.
His characters were diverse and engaging and he weaves an intricate plot through all of his series.
I would recommend this book for any sci-fi fan.
Bought this book as a bargain Kindle edition. If you like the military science fiction works of David Weber or David Drake, then I can unquestionably recommend this book. Jay Allen's action scenes are excellent, almost unputdowanable and easily on a par with the writers mentioned earlier. This only gets four stars from me because the non-actions scenes, where the characters' personal lives are explored and politics expounded, are not as well written and not nearly as interesting. It will be interesting to see if Mr Allen's ability as a writer improves as the series goes on. So, definitely recommended for 'future wars' junkies, not so much for the average reader
on 1 July 2014
I have to admit I have never heard of Jay Allan so on reading some of the reviews I thought what the hell read the first book see what it's like. I like to be able to read a book and if it has caught my imagination in the first few pages and pulls me into the story and I cannot put it down, its good.
I have to admit I had difficulty putting this book down and have had to really force myself to do so that I can get some sleep for work the next day.
It leaves you wanting to read the next book in the series which as soon as I finished this one I bought.
My advice try this book if you like it, the next books in the series are even harder to put down.
on 4 May 2016
It is fortunate that our hero has such a meteoric rise to an elevated position of military responsibility. Much of the Saga describes action battle campaigns in detail which sometimes feels a bit repetitive. Development of personal relationships are kept to a minimum during this normally highly hormonal amplified period. This is a pity as it would have served to alleviate the constant stream of technical battles to some extent. As a record of how a marine is likely to be recruited, trained and exploited, this volume gives an exciting insight. Looking forward to how this is developed in the next volume!