Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent start to a new Military SF series, 19 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Soldier's Duty, A (Theirs Not to Reason Why) (Mass Market Paperback)
This excellent and exciting novel is the first in a new military SF series, "Theirs not to reason why" and introduces Ia, who is cursed with the ability to see all possible futures. As a fifteen year old girl at the start of the book, in the year 2487, Ia has a vision of the future and realises that a ghastly catastrophe is hanging over the galaxy. Out of all those possible futures she can see one faint chance to avert that disaster - and to set history onto the course which provides that chance, she has to start by becoming a great military leader.

So she enlists in the Marines of the Terran United Planets and starts working her way up. On the way she earns the nickname "Bloody Mary" from the frequency with which she finds herself in the middle of the fiercest and messiest fighting.

This book covers the start of Ia's military career from boot camp to the point where her commission as an officer is confirmed.

The series to date consists of

1) This book, "A solder's duty"
2) "An Officer's Duty" (Link: Officer's Duty, An (Theirs Not to Reason Why))
3) "Hellfile" (Link: Hellfire : Theirs Not to Reason Why)

Another reviewer compared this to the "Honor Harrington" series by David Weber which begins with "On Basilisk Station (Honorverse)."

Well, both are military science fiction, set five hundred or a couple of thousand years in the future respectively, both have a remarkable female heroine and central character who was born on a heavy gravity planet and whose adaptations, natural or bioengineered, to that planet have conferred a few special abilities, and both series are IMHO well written. However, so far as this book is concerned, the differences are more striking than the similarities, though I don't think it is a spoiler to say that there will be some convergence later in the series.

The Honorverse starts off with a huge number of parallels to the age of Nelson, and Honor, who commands starships, appears to be modelled on a mix of Nelson himself and Horatio Hornblower. Honor joined her planet's navy from conventional motives including old-fashioned patriotism and a wish to defend her society and the people she loves against the threat of an aggressive hostile human nation.

Ia is a completely different kettle of fish, because her precognitive abilities and the way she is using her vision of the future to try to prevent a catastrophe three hundred years down the line dominates her life, including her decision to build a military career starting as a grunt. And fighting her battles as an enlisted marine rather than from a starship's bridge, Ia's fighting experience is usually a lot more "up close and personal" than most (not by any means all) of the battles Honor Harrington has to fight.

Apart from her military career, Ia has a "hobby" in writing letters to be delivered many years in the future to people most of whom have not even been born yet, to try to nudge history in the right direction, make sure the right couples pair up and the right people do get born, etc. This might have been an interesting part of the novel if explained in more detail, but basically the reader is shown in the skimpiest of outlines that Ia is doing this, and at one point of the book those letters create a difficult situation for her in the here and now, which I can't explain further to avoid spoilers. Beyond that there isn't much detail.

We also get an insight into Ia's ancestry, from which it is obvious that she is even less like a normal human than anyone else except for her immediate family realises.

Really can't say too much more than this without spoilers, but I can recommend this book: if you like military science fiction, you will very probably enjoy it.
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