The Light Brigade comes across at first glance as a very standard military science fiction in the vein of Jack Campbell but the further you get into it you realise that there is more to it. It reminded my a lot of John Scalzi’s work and in terms of morals and meanings it was very much aligned with Robert A. Heinlein.
The focus of the entire novel is really an examination of the manipulation of authorities during war, of how the lowly grunt is meaningless to the big machine of those in charge. This is a very topical view with the rise of nationalism and popular-ism across the world.
The books premise is that the world is now ruled by a loose alliance of corporations who have entered into a war with martian colonists. Key to their strategy is the use of teleportation technology which converts soldiers to light and beams them to their drop zone.
Where as in Star Trek transporters and their use is dealt with in a magic hand wavy way, with joke nods to heisenberg compensators and transporter psychosis this book deals with the implications more viscerally. Is the nascent technology safe, how does it feel and what happens when it does go wrong.
The book starts fairly innocuously introducing the lead character and his squad mates and for the first third of the book it seems as if we are getting a run of the mill ground pounders view of a solar system wide war, however Hurley turns the narrative introducing a plot element which instantly elevates it to something more interesting.
The added element to the plot does help elevate the story but there is a problem with the pacing and the later quarter of the book struggles with fully tying up the narrative threads. The end point is telegraphed fairly early in the novel and this maybe why the conclusion seemed rushed and somewhat lacklustre. This sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book, but I did. It is well worth a read and whilst the plot is not entirely original there is enough spin to it to engage a reader.
In terms of the Arthur C. Clarke Award this book is better than The Old Drift it is just edged by my last read – A Memory Called Empire. Up next – The Last Astronaut.
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