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Customer Review

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Utterly unconvincing..., 11 April 2011
This review is from: New Model Army (Paperback)
This is a major disaster of a novel. Salt, this author's first novel, was a powerful exploration of conflict between two very different sets of colonistson a planet. This novel tries to do something similar, in a near-future world, in which 'New Model Armies', consisting of 'citizen-mercenaries' operating efficiently using networking technologies, run rings around what are labelled 'feudal armies', that is professional standing armies. The narrator, one Anthony Block, is a soldier in an NMA called "Pantegral" which is commissioned by a rebellious Scottish Parliament, to take up arms against the British Army, in a campaign set in south west London.

The reason that this novel fails is its total unreality. NMAs make 'democratic' decisions via a networked 'wiki', not a chain of command. Leaving aside the implied 'generals are stupid' cliche, has anyone anywhere ever got a good decision out of online debate in the timescale (minutes) that tactical warfare demands? Since a laptop user is labelled 'old fashioned', the assumption is is that NMA troops are using handhelds: these are ergonomic nightmares to use in a combat situation. How are these devices networked?A satellite-based network is
not something that ordinary people can set up. And how is this 'network' protected against hackers? Some Gibsonian-guff about 'intelligent worms' is how. Where do NMA recruits get weapons, ammunition and training: Guns'R'Us? And where have the millions of civilians gone who live in the battle area? A dead child sticks in the narrators mind but the novel is deliberately blinkered from seeing civilian casualties from NMA actions, like
exploding a mini-nuke. How could an NMA ever use a weapon like this?

Block is 'turned' against NMAs and debriefed by an American commander. This is highly ironic as in the real world the US Army is experimenting with new tactics: helmet cams wired for two-way sound as a better way of managing battle and remote controlled UAVs and land-based robots giving a significant level of support to human troops. US military networks are kept distinct from civilian ones, while GPS (itself a military development and unlikely to
usable against US troops) gives precision guidance of munitions. This is more NMA-like than the fake ones
portrayed in this novel.

This is a one idea novel in which the one idea (of networked citizen armies) is totally broken. While Block's reminiscences are well written, the unreality of the whole thing leaches out any real power. Go read Salt instead.
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Location: Edinburgh

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