Tag Archives: Military science fiction

Huff, Tanya; Valor’s Choice (Confedation of Valor I)(2000)

“If space is big and mostly uninhabited, it should be safe to assume that any life-forms who really didn’t get along would avoid spending time in each other’s company.

Unfortunately, the fact that said life-forms could avoid each other doesn’t necessarily mean that they would.

When the Others attacked systems on the borders of Confederation territory, Parliament sent out a team of negotiators to point out that expansion in any other direction would be more practical as it would not result in conflict. The negotiators were returned in a number of very small pieces…”

The Confederation and the Others each consist of several sentient life forms wanting a piece of the other side’s action. Unlike the Others, the Confederation had been at peace for long enough to evolve an inability to kill species they defined as sentient, leaving the Elder races desperate for someone to protect them. As Humans had, already, ventured out into their own solar system, they were uplifted on the condition that they, in effect, become the military arm of the Confederation. Once the Krai and di’Taykan were included into the Conferation, that military was expanded.

Valor’s Choice takes us to a world where another warlike species has been discovered. The Silsviss are tough enough that the military want them to join the Confederation and not the Others. Enter  the Human Torin Kerr, staff sergeant for the Sh’Quo Company. General Morris, who has never been in a ground battle, orders Kerr to recall the battleworn Sh’quo Company, supposedly to serve as honor guard for the diplomats. On top of that she is given a brand new  second lieutenant, the di’Taykan di’Ka Jarret to train. Their relationship is part of the humour of the story, but not for the reasons one might suspect. Jarret is not a bumbling fool. Instead the humour lies in their preexisting relationship.

Neither Kerr nor Jarret are fools. Both of them know that General Morris is planning on something unpleasant for them. Nothing they can do other than be as prepared as they can. On to diplomat-sitting duty they travel. Fortunately, Huff does not fall into some of the tempting traps that are available to authors. Male and female characters are not stereotyped. Nor are the other marines portrayed as stupid fighting machines. Granted, the extras do not have in-depth personalities, but Huff has tried to bring them somewhat to life. Huff manages to blend the three fighting species into a unit all the while maintaining species-typical behaviour. Valor’s Choice is told in third person from Kerr’s point of view and  she is the person who is most three-dimensional. I found myself liking her. Another character I really liked was the envoy from the Silvsniss, Cri Sawyes.

There is definitely entertainment value in Valor’s Choice. In the sense that it draws me in and keeps me reading, it could be called escapist. Yet, escapism isn’t all there is to this story. Power and politics are major themes of Valor’s Choice. General Morris is a political general, i.e. he wants advancement at whatever price others have to pay. I strongly dislike people who intend to use other people’s lives to get there. Even when fighting is inevitable, war-hawks tend to up the tally of dead.

Valor’s Choice is also about specieism. Colourism or culturism are inevitable. Humans are programmed to use pre-existing information upon meeting people who look or behave different from themselves and their contemporaries. Humans, Krai and di’Taykan are all war-like. Disparaging remarks are made about the Silvsniss by the marines, but they aren’t said in the same spirit they use on each other. The three military species have worked out their differences (with the help of translators) and joke about those species-specific behaviours (like eating your grandmother). In many ways they find  Silvsniss easier to understand than the Elder races the marines babysit. Nor are the Elder races able to comprehend how bloodthirsty the three military species.

Valor’s Choice is a military sci-fi space opera with fighting on the ground. Except for the last bit. Fighting does not begin until after page 100. For me it was easy to get into and was interesting even when action was slow.

Farrugia, Nathan M.: Helix: Episode 1 (2016)

Hi, I’m Nathan and I make up stories. There’s a word for that. Delusional. And sexy.

Helix: Episode 1 is part of the world of The Fifth Column. What I like most, aside from how well the text flows, is its realism. No mental leaps are required of me to believe in the likelihood of the methods used to acquire soldier material, how these people are tested, what training they receive and their use. The military and population application of all of the genetic manipulation described, especially unquestioning loyalty, is frightening.

Some of the brainwashing techniques described in the Sophia serial is brainwashing we all go through. Propaganda is poured at us from every available medium from the time we are born. Our ethics and moral values are all part of this propaganda. Soldiers who are sent to kill, especially the ones who end up in some form of black ops, must endure even more. What military and intelligence leaders want are people who obey and find a way to achieve whatever their leaders command them to do as efficiently as possible. Unlike religious cults, though, the military cannot have unquestioning loyalty in such men and women. At least not in officers.

The Fifth Column is not an officially sanctioned group. They aren’t interested in their doings getting out to the public. So their brainwashing needs to be more thorough.

One of their tools for finding relevant children is the Human Genome Project. Based on certain genetic markers, children from around the world get tested by Project GATE. Olesya, our main character, is one such child. Except she does not seem to have the desired genetic marker. However, she does make it into the program.

“For a while, he was silent. It was the longest she’d seen him not talk. Above the, fireworks crackled, then trickled down the velvet sky. Olesya tried to imagine what this scholarship on the other side of the world would be like without her big brother.

The snow squeaked under Zakhar’s jacket. He rubbed his face with a gloved hand and she realized he’d been crying. The fireworks had faded now, golden glitter in the night.”

Project GATE aims to make the perfect killers. By combining extensive testing, combat and assassin training, brainwashing techniques and an engineered virus, Project GATE gets unquestioning, loyal and adjustable soldiers.

After one of their tests, Olesya, together with other team-members, is broken out of Project GATE by the Sixth Column and de-programmed. The Chimera Vector took us through that process and it was not fun for either the programee or the de-programmer.  Getting de-programmed is only the beginning of Olesya’s life with a mind of her own. Now the Sixth Column wants her to be their soldier. She, and the others from her old team, fight to free other Fifth Column members and to find their own people who seem to be disappearing. Theirs is a race against time and a superior power.

It turns out the Sixth Column is not only fighting against the Fifth Column but also against an organization whose members wear white armbands. All of these conspiracies give us much action, well-written action. With his background, Farrugia has the tools for being able to make the fighting realistic. Realism by itself, would not work well for some of the car-chases, so we get a bit of Bondism as well.  We reacquaint ourselves briefly with Sophia and it is interesting to see what that tells us about the Sixth Column.

Helix was fun, had great flow and interesting people who kept me entertained. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


My reviews of other Fifth Column stories


Helix, Episode 1 is available at Amazon

Johnson, Jean: Hardship (Theirs Not to Reason Why IV) (2014)

I wonder if true precognitives exist? There are certainly plenty of frauds out there, who in spite of generally being wrong have their followers. Ia lives in a world where paranormal powers of varying degrees is a fairly normal matter. Paranormal powers seem to be part of most of the species in Jean Johnson’s Theirs Not to Reason Why. When it comes to precognition Ia is strong enough be called “The Prophet of a Thousand Years”. Her predictions thus far have never missed their mark. What she has seen of the future frightens her because she wants life in the universe to survive.

Fighting for the survival of others or fighting to fulfill the political goals of others seems to be a soldier’s lot. This is a way of thinking that is foreign to me. I tend to think that humans need extinction. While some political systems seem saner than others, the politicians within those systems can get too caught up in games. Some of these so-called games cost young men and women their lives as soldiers fighting for what may or may not be healthy for people.

Ia’s precognition has saved the lives of many of the soldiers and non-combatants on her side. Fewer people have died than might have. If I were an officer, that would certainly be my main goal – to keep as many as possible alive while still managing to do the job that needs to be done. Losing that ability for a while – the long-term precognition – blinds Ia in a way that losing her left eye does not. Her team are so used to having solid information that they too are strongly affected by her loss. But needing to live without being able to depend on her foresight teaches Ia more about the quality of needing to lead through trust. I would find that one of the most difficult parts of being a leader, needing to trust my subordinates to do the job properly. But I imagine leaders learn a lot about themselves through such a process.

In the world of Theirs is Not to Reason Why there are quite a few political players. Not all of them are human. Some of these players are the Feyori. Ia is half Feyori and half human. In Hellfire Ia had her first manifestation as Feyori (she describes them as energy-based beings manifesting themselves as something like large soap-bubbles). That soap-bubble image is very much in my mind right now when I think about Ia’s meeting with the other Feyori in Hardship.

Hardship was a great addition to the serial about Ia. So many of the authors that I read are captivating writers who give me loads of action and imagination. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Hardship available at Amazon US


My review of:

  1. A Soldier’s Duty
  2. An Officer’s Duty
  3. Hellfire

Aftermath of war (PTSD)

President of US apologises in 2012

Simpson, David: Sub-Human (Post-Human 1) (2012)

Because of the way my head works, I think that for me it is best to start the series with Sub-Human. This what I chose to do, so too late now. David Simpson discusses the (dis)advantages of the two ways to read the series.

I see Sub-Human as a story about who has the right to definitions and the lengths to which people will go to enforce their definitions upon others.

What is intelligence?

At what exact point do 1’s and 0’s come to life?

What is a human?

What arguments do we use to justify killing others so we can be “right”?

The Purists are fine with injecting certain soldiers with “nano-infusions”. Yet these infusions change people into super-humans/super-soldiers who can withstand extreme conditions. The Purists are also fine with using dirty bombs to destroy those they consider techno-friendly. Nor are they afraid of killing their own people. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that the Purists represent what I would call an extreme point of view. Yet I sometimes wonder if those kinds of views are becoming increasingly popular because they seem to hold uncomplicated answers.

When the soldiers from the US go on a mission with an AI robot that specializes in heavy trauma suspended animation body bags it makes me wonder exactly who it is that profits from the Purists being in government. Have those who profit been able to use their long-term thinking caps? Hmmm.

Seen from my point of view I found Sub-Human a realistic portrayal of the idiotic decisions we humans make over and over again. A look back into history will show us a frightening tendency toward self-destructive behavior, except now our weapons are a bit more destructive than they used to be. It also clearly shows how hypocritical we are when our own lives are on the line.


Review:


Sub-Human available on Amazon USA

Farrugia, Nathan: The Chimera Vector (The Fifth Column) (2012)

The Chimera Vector
Cover design by Keerati Sarakun and Patrick Naoum
Cover typography by Andrei Stefan-Cosmin
Edited by Nicola O’Shea

The Chimera Vector portrait

The Chimera Vector set me into research mode. I started looking into “chimera vector” and discovered quite a few articles on the research into this type of transportation on the net. I have included four of them below. Chimera: a DNA molecule with sequences derived from two or more different organisms, formed by laboratory manipulation.

According to Psychology Today a psychopath is a person who exhibits a long list of character traits. One needs to show a lack of empathy (cold-heartedness, an inability to feel deeply); show a lack of shame, guilt, fear or embarrassment at ones actions; a tendency to blame others for their own failures, or no shame if confronted; show a strong ability to remain focused on a task; appear charming yet have a tendency toward pathological lying, and they seem comfortable even when found out; incredibly overconfident, as if they cannot fail; impulsive; incredibly selfish and parasitic; lack realistic long-term goals; and finally be prone to violence.

In The Chimera Vector we get to meet several people who fit the bill of a psychopath. The whole concept of psychopathy or sociopathy is extremely fascinating. It is one of those terms that we bandy about as if being a psychopath was a common thing. Looking at the list above, I see many of them that could fit myself and most other people I know. But when I take a closer look at the people I meet, I think I can say that there is probably only one one person that I could definitely call a psychopath. Long-term planning was no problem for him at all and holding power is something he has definitely been concerned with. Power behind the throne, not the apparent one that is more image than real.

Power is what The Chimera Vector is all about. The lengths people are willing to go in their hunger for power. We see people playing power games every day – within families, at work and at play. But seldom do we see power games taken to the extreme that The Chimera Vector shows. But we wouldn’t, would we. That is the whole point of The Fifth Column. People must not see the games the leaders of The Fifth Column play, for their real power lies in their secrecy. To them all the death and mayhem they deal is part of the games.

Programming soldiers like Sofia, Jay and Damien into becoming unquestioning killer robots is fun. Killing innocent people to keep the world going their way is fun. Watching countries erupt into cauldrons of fire is fun. Power is fun. Fun and addictive.

I see all this and I believe it. The Chimera Vector is believable. If some scientist manages to discover how to create weapons like The Fifth Column use, soldiers like this will be developed. Perhaps I have too cynical a view of the world, but this is what I believe. History has shown us time and again that once a power-hungry leader gains control of research and development gruesome consequences evolve. In fact, history has shown us (and shows us) that in their grasp for power the world itself becomes expendable to the power-players.

And yes, I did enjoy The Chimera Factor. A great deal, in fact.

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Reviews:

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I was given this novel by the author. Whether that affected my review is difficult to say. I’ve tried to be as objective as possible.

Johnson, Jean: Hellfire (Theirs Not to Reason Why) (2013)

hellfire - larger file
Cover art by Gene Mollica
Cover design by Annette Fiore Defex
Interior text design by Laura K. Corless

I started reading Hellfire and was immediately engrossed in the world of Ia and her Damned. Annoying really when a novel is this good. I believe I actually stayed up until 3 in the morning just because I did not want to go to bed until I knew how Hellfire ended. The ending was a sort of cliff-hanger – in the sense that the story did not end with Hellfire – yet not – in the sense that Hellfire had a conclusion.

…What if you could see the future? What if you foresaw that, three hundred years from your time, your entire galaxy would be destroyed in an overwhelming invasion? What would you do to stop it, when it would all happen long after you were dead and gone? (Jean Johnson)

Me? I don’t know if I would care enough to do anything about it. But what if the experience had been as if I, myself, had experienced the extinction of life? Sad to say, I’m not a particularly noble person. I doubt I could go to the lengths that Ia does in trying to protect the future of her galaxy. I doubt I would stay sane (well, as sane as I will ever be).

Does she see her life as the sacrifice it is? Oh, yes. What she had wanted for herself was to be a singer. Instead she became a soldier on her journey to ready the different breeds of people for the future. A future she would never experience herself. Her motivation? That was what being a pre-cognitive did. Especially being one as strong as she was.

People being the way we are, means we tend to disbelieve anything we have not experienced ourselves. Which is why Ia has let various creatures across the galaxy received snippets of her visions with information on how to avoid the potential future she wishes for them to avoid. This is where Ia’s type of pre-cognition varies from the type of clairvoyance that could be more paradoxical. Ia’s type shows a potential future based on a potential number of choices. By building on her reputation, prophecy by bloody prophecy, Ia has now arrived at Hellfire.

Upon reaching Hellfire Ia has gotten far enough on her journey that she has managed to convince the human authorities of her claims of pre-cognition. All it took was being right a certain number of times and they were more or less on her side. But three hundred years is a long time for most people to keep their minds on. It is the political games here and now that seem to matter, not what some great-, great- … grandchild of ours will be going through. Keeping the military leaders’ minds on what lays ahead is a challenge Ia has to win again and again throughout Hellfire.

With her ship, she and her crew travels around the galaxy recruiting more believers and fighting a whole bunch of battles.

For those of you who like technical details, you will get those. I haven’t a clue as to how likely any of them are, but they are nevertheless interesting.

For those of you who are fans of action and thrills, there are plenty of those as well. The above battles are only part of it. Ia gets herself and her crew out of various tight situations. While we already know that she, herself, has to survive until she has amassed a certain following, we don’t know who else gets to live along with her.

For those of you who like humour, don’t worry. We get plenty of that along with the bleaker moments. Jean Johnson has managed to lighten the story with some witty dialogue.

Finally, for those of you who like romance, there is that as well.

Add to all of this the writing of Jean Johnson and we have a novel that carries its middlehood well. I am certainly looking forward to Damnation.


Review:


  • File Size: 951 KB
  • Print Length: 479 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0425256502
  • Publisher: Ace (July 30, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009RYS0PW

My review of:

  1. A Soldier’s Duty
  2. An Officer’s Duty

 

Hicks, Michael R.: Final Battle (In Her Name – Redemption) (2009)

Final Battle
Cover art by Michael Hicks. Stock images from bought from Dreamstime.com and edited in Photoshop

I feel the need to warn readers of the Redemption trilogy. Toward the end of Final Battle there is a violent scene that could trigger those of you who have experienced abuse (sexual). It is relevant to the story. Now you are warned. In spite of my warning, my personal belief is that the story of Reza Gard and his way toward his destiny can be read by older young adults and, of course, ancients like myself.

Reza’s near-death-experience and meeting with the First Empress put him in a coma and there he remained for the next half-year. Final Battlefelt as much about Jodi Mackenzie as about Reza. She has some rough times ahead of her but does her very best to be a person who remains true to what she considers honorable.
Honor is not something one would equate with Thorella (Reza’s arch-enemy) or the new president, Borge. These two are men who are so caught up in their own vision of reality that they have lost all grip on the real world. Sadly, they are both highly intelligent and extremely wealthy and therefore able to adjust the world to fit their psychosis. That is, up to a certain point. Hicks writes insanity and greed well.

Now that I think about it, I have met people like Thorella and Borge although these people have been without Thorella and Borge’s means. It is not an experience I would recommend. I prefer people who live with gentler versions of reality.

It turns out Reza has a son, the first male child born to Kreelans in 100000 years who is able to function in society. The Kreelan history is a tragic one. Even if they brought it upon themselves through the choices of their ancestors, the tragedy is still a fact. Now there is finally hope. Yet something is amiss with the Kreelans. They seem to have lost all interest in fighting. One might even say that they are experiencing a mass-depression.

Reza is essential to the Kreelan race. All that he has gone through has honed him into a key that is capable of unlocking their next step in evolution.

I am going to end this review by saying: When I started reviewing Empire I discovered I had forgotten a couple of things. I opened up my e-book and that was it. Michael R. Hicks forced me to read the trilogy again. That is a pretty mean trick when it comes to me. After all it had not been long since I read it the first time. I imagine Hicks is going to pull the same stunt the next time I open up Empire. This trilogy is a definite keep.


 Reviews:


My review of Empire and Confederation