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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 31 October 2012
Turning a traditional space marines yarn into a save-the-galaxy prophecy could have made for an interesting series. However, the main character is an inhumanly perfect cypher who might as well be replaced by a robot for all the empathy she engenders. The author introduced a couple of plot devices to create mystery and counteract the extremely detailed and accurate foreknowledge available to the heroine, but I felt these were not taken far enough. Following some of the side characters who got tangled up in the web of the prophecy would have been interesting. In fact, given that there is a very large galaxy out there to save, far too much time was spent tunnel visioning on the main character's military career, to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. I enjoyed the book somewhat, but it lacked depth and feeling.
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Guys, gals, this book is AWESOME. The scope, the sheer complexity of it all is on par with Dune.

I have to admit straight away, this is not a book for everyone and my 5 out of 5 stars is highly subjective because I personally grew up with reading and rereading Dune, and gobbling up extremely popular military sci-fi in Russia for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This is like a blast from the past.

A Soldier's Duty has been on my shelves for about 7-8 months, and then this Sunday I suddenly fancied some sci-fi and picked it up. Next thing I know it's 1.30 in the morning and I'm 3/4 of the way through the book and have to force myself to stop.

I finished it the next day and ordered book #2 straight away. Now I have a bookish hangover which happens when the book was so good you are not quite ready to turn your attention to some other read. You probably know exactly what I mean! ;)

Ia is such a complex, interesting, intense and incredibly driven character. There is always a barrier, am inner detachment in her which comes from seeing everyone's future all the time, the numerous probabilities in time currents. The things this woman has to keep in her head would drive an average person mad, but she perseveres because failure is not an option. Failure means the annihilation of her galaxy.

Ia as a recruit and then as a Marine is always at the front of all action because it's the only way she can control the outcome. Because she knows how to drive the events for the desirable outcome, her actions become incredible, even legendary feats of bravery, and the whole book is one total non-stop fest of action, fights and battles while each of the event serves as another chess piece in Ia's Game.

It's really hard to describe this book, and I don't really want to give any spoilers to those who think they would appreciate the genre. However, what I can say is that Jean Johnson as a paranormal romance author only got a DNF from me, I just couldn't read the book. Jean Johnson as a sci-fi author is a pure evil genius. I couldn't stop reading. Weird, huh?

Highly recommended, but not for sci-fi beginners I think :)
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 September 2012
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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VINE VOICEon 31 October 2012
One minor pastime of mine is seeing what quirks and complete opposites Amazon has recommended (My experience of being offered a microphone because I bought a Dad's Army DVD is a tale that's never gonna grow old). However this time there was a direct correlation which led me to this first of a new series.
Basic outline. 25th Century Humanity has spread far and wide into a galaxy of many races. Ia a human girl, has precognitive abilities, at the age of fifteen she has seen a possible apocalyptic future only she can change. To do this she has to join the military and work her way up into a position of great influence.
Starting as a raw recruit into the future version of today's US Marine corps the first volume charts her first two years of service to her promotion to officer. There is the traditional homage to the first half of Full Metal Jacket, though the harsh training is portrayed as honing a fully intelligent as well and tough marine, and aside from one rogue who Ia puts down everyone is a firm but fair or a loveable rough diamond. By this stage she has already begun to shine and the larger portion of the book is cataloguing her military actions as well as search and rescue work. Many bodies, swift easy to follow action and as all SF readers insist a sound and believable technologic basis; I would not say any of this is truly ground breaking but it fits nicely into the narrative without swamping it; fine by me.
Now as for the layers. Of course being a precog Ia has to tread carefully so not as to disrupt the future she aims for so she must ensure she has to engineer some situations, by touch she can also see the future of some other comrades, for better or for worse, but cannot tell them. She also has a tough and very resilient body, product of her home world. Then there are problems. Firstly there is a very ephemeral and dubious race the Feyori who interfere in the progress of other races and inhabit bodies of individuals all to do so in some complex `game' of their own. One of these knows of her; it transpires her biological father was `occupied' by a Feyori, hence her abilities; how this will pan out in the future is not made clear. Secondly it would appear since her vision Ia has been very busy setting up a not all together benign network to assist her. Thirdly her senior officers are naturally wanting to know just how she manages to achieve such startling results, this she has to handle in various ways and again this is left open as to the future impact. Fourthly she is getting to be noticed by criminal and subversive elements. All very intriguing for the next volume.
Now at times the girl is positively Graphic Book super-hero or Fantasy Saga heroic (reminds me just a smidge of Vin in the Mistborn series) but happily by weaving in factors from the above layers Jean Johnson makes this plausible. I can understand the observation that Ia is a bit short of character, but I would say in Jean Johnson's defence and also of Ia's with this sort of burden and responsibility you would either be a raving loose cannon or a control freak supreme; actually to her fellow characters at times she does seem to be the former, the reader can be forgiven thinking of her as the latter.
Despite its size this book is quite a swift and entertaining read, drawing you into the flow of the action and challenges. I am really going to have to buy volume two, may there several others.
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on 8 November 2012
Started off OK, I can accept enhanced powers due to being from a heavy planet, with some increase in mental ability, makes the story. But to suddenly increase everything halfway through the book with people not previously mentioned is a bit much. Almost as if she was told to jazz it up.
Otherwise well written,not a bad story.
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on 25 January 2015
Wow, David Drake has some competition at last, the character stands tall (and bloody) on her own two legs, the pace is fast, the story in gripping, i can not wait to see her in action again....
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on 13 July 2015
excellent writing, author has great talent enabling her to carry off the futuristic precognitive theme in such a convincing manner and still be able to intrigue her readers with the plot
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on 3 July 2013
This a great read full of action as well as twists turns and interesting and fun characters, is is a complex and interesting lead cannot wait to see where the next book takes here.
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on 8 January 2013
this is a story for a fight for
live of to worlds and there people if this is the type of stories that you like to read then try this one
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on 16 October 2013
Good read - looking forward to seeing where the author takes the next book in the series. If you're into military sci-fi give this one a go.
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