If you want military SciFi you need to look no further than the Warp Marines!  As you probably know by this time, this genre is one of my favorites and I’ve written quite a few posts about the books that I’ve enjoyed over the years – some of them are below:

While I’ve yet to make my top 10 list of recent Military SciFi titles, the Warp Marines are fast moving up to the top of that list & book 1 – Decisively Engaged – gets you hooked right from the beginning.  There is no slow build up like Weber prefers with his Honor Harrington series, this one gets down and dirty right from the beginning and the action only gets more frantic as time goes on.

Story in a nutshell

Warp Marines takes us to a universe not too dissimilar to our own.  First contact, however, is not something we’d want to repeat as our initial exposure to the universe at large can only be described as cataclysmic.  When one group of aliens (the “Puppies”) escaping from a battle inadvertently leads the other to Earth, the “Snakes” decide to introduce humanity to Starfarer culture by bombing them back to the stone age.  Clean bombs & not nuclear, simply mean that the targets are surrounded by a globe of force while the temperature gradually increases within that globe  – hot enough to melt steel.  Fortunately for the survivors – less than half of Earth’s remaining population – the Puppies are able to defeat the Snakes before they can complete their destruction & feeling guilty for leading these hostile aliens here, they decide to help bootstrap humanity so that they are able to survive any further incursions from the Snakes or any of the other hostile races in their galactic neighborhood.

While the remnants of humanity might be few, they are not idle or indecisive.  The new American president institutes a program to rapidly build a space-based presence to ensure that any future alien attacks are stopped and while he’s not able to build a fleet of sufficient size to fully protect and englobe the Earth, what he is able to build is a fleet with defences that are new to the galactic scene.  One that has the rest of the spiral arm start referring to humans as … Warp Demons.

Sounds pretty cool right?  Well, that’s actually just the prologue … the rest of the book contains significantly more in the way of small unit tactics and advanced weaponry and it just continues to build up in terms of tone and tempo.

Characters

All of the characters are quite well conceived and written and their motivations are really well described and delivered.  The aliens, however, are a bit cardboard and one sided.  They are basically bad and we’re good and there is no gray area in between.  The Queen of the planet our hero finds himself on is very much based on the Empress Dowager Cixi and the whole Boxer rebellion-esque story is prevalent and annoying as its not really new or unique.  In fact another military scifi book did it earlier and it was very similar.

What I liked and didn’t like

The similarity to the boxer rebellion is definitely something I didn’t like.  I would have liked some more interaction with the different groups of aliens also as only one side of a story gets tedious and monotonous.  I also would have liked more space battles and especially those with larger fleets.  However the small unit tactics and overall grit within the story itself was really well done.  You could feel the fear and pain the Marines were going through and you lived it with them.  It was really well done!

 

 

Terry has written a couple of books that I’m quite fond of (namely his Empire of Bones saga, reviewed here, and here) so I thought this one was worth a try too – and while it’s not perfect, there is enough in it that I’m probably going to pick up book 2 when it’s eventually released.

Now if you recall from some previous posts, I have been using Kindle Unlimited – well that changed earlier this month so this was a full cash purchase.  The question I’m sure that’s uppermost in your mind is was it worth the $6.50?  Well, without being too wishy-washy … Yes and No. 🙂

See the idea here is that the Earth is about to be bombarded by high-intensity solar radiation … this will act somewhat like an EMP and short circuit a significant percentage of our non-hardened electrical and computing equipment.  Unfortunately, seconds prior to the bombardment a rogue nation state decides to attack the US.  The US in retaliation shoots some nukes at them, which sets off a chain of events with nukes flying all over the world and destroying any remaining infrastructure that the solar radiation doesn’t get!  Basically, the whole world is screwed!

Our hero and main protagonist (Tom) however just happens to be a bit of a gun nut (lucky right?) and while he’s not a survivalist, he happens also to be a (successful) author of post-apocalyptic fiction which not only ensures that he always knows the right thing to do, it gives him more than enough liquid capital to buy his way out of a few troublesome spots.  Also fortunately for Tom his contacts at the gun show he’s attending include an ex-army sniper and a retired member (Moshe) of the IDF (Israel Defence Force) and his daughter.  Tom is again really “lucky” as not only is Moshe someone that knows their way around weaponry – he owns a gun shop and is able to outfit the expedition that Tom is building to return to his home.  Moshe also happens to know a doctor!  Isn’t Tom lucky?

Sorry, I know that I’m laying it on a bit thick there, and while that is intended, it’s frustrating when everything is lining up in such a perfect manner for our main character.  You’d expect some troublesome issues to raise their head, but aside from the fact that he had a bit of a case of the shakes after killing his first looter, Tom and almost everyone else seems perfectly willing and able to gun down anyone that gets in their way.  While it’s an admirable attitude and probably something that would develop over time – the fact that Tom is able to do it in the first 15min – 1/2 hr after the bomb’s start dropping pushes the bounds of belief a little.  In addition, his ability to persuade everyone else to go along with him also doesn’t help!  Finally and probably the thing that annoyed me the most was the fact that Tom ALWAYS seems to know exactly the right thing to do.  He never seems to get surprised by someone else’s actions and can always plan around what they are going to do.

Now that the negative is out of the way – let’s talk a little bit about the positives. The overall idea itself is quite interesting and while it feels a bit rushed the whole thing does work.  The action sequences though are definitely standouts in my opinion and make this book. While the minutiae of the different types of guns are a bit boring, their capabilities are quite interesting.  I’m interested in seeing where Terry goes with book 2 and beyond and while I’m not expecting Tom and crew to be decimated, I would like there to be a bit more realism to their struggles.

AFTER AN ENDLESS wait that felt like being trapped in a time loop, Doctor Who finally returned last night. I’ve never anticipated a Doctor Who season premiere quite like “The Pilot.” Peter Capaldi proved himself an amazing Doctor last season, blending shades of Eight and Four with his own unique style. The first episode of Doctor Who—”An Unearthly Child”—was the story of a misfit pupil in an educational establishment, and her unlikely relationship with a charismatic old man. “The Pilot” follows a similar arc in places, with nods to the Doctor’s past, while showing a new side of his character, one that is less keen to run and keep running, and more interested in making a long-term home for himself, somewhere with lots of books and lots of blackboards.

When “The Pilot” begins, The Doctor is living and teaching at a fictional university in Bristol. He’s been there for the past 50 years—yet, nobody seems to notice that one of the professors has outlasted even the most determined of tenured faculty. As it’s a tribute of sorts to the very early days of Doctor Who, it’s fitting that the two romantic leads in the story should have the names, Bill and Heather. William Hartnell, the First Doctor, was known as Bill or Billy, and Heather was the name of his wife of 46 years.

But let’s talk about our newest companions. Matt Lucas as Nardole continues to be a gift to the show, and the perfect foil for Capaldi in a way I would argue hasn’t been seen since Frazer Hines as Jamie. I’m also really enjoying the fact that the show is apparently never going to explain what he actually is. A screw falls out of him at one point, but he also has a biological head that needs glasses for seeing properly, and apparently he poops (aside: “The Pilot” established, for what I believe is the first time on television, that the Tardis does, in fact, have a toilet, which used to be a significant topic of debate). He gets some of the best lines in the episode but tempers it with a compassionate pathos that is endearing.

Pearl Mackie’s Bill Potts was the big news, though, as the latest of the plucky young women who run off with The Doctor. She is also the first truly full-time LGBT companion in the series’ long history. Jack Harkness and Oliver Harper both blazed trails in representation, and the latter is one of my favorite companions, but both only traveled in The Tardis for a handful of episodes. Bill is slated to be here for an entire season, and Heather starts out as her love interest in the episode right off the bat. It’s been a pleasant winding down of the romantic subplots that focused on companions and their Doctors that plagued the last two incarnations, and I’m glad Bill is here to continue the process. Other companions have certainly been intelligent. Liz Shaw and Charley Pollard come immediately to mind, but both had a tendency to just point and ask for an explanation. Bill is much more of a detective, even to the point she knows The Doctor plans on erasing her memory. It puts her in an interesting position, as The Doctor himself comes to grips with his feelings of inadequacy as the universe’s constant savior.

In his office, only three testaments to his travels appear; his bust of Beethoven, a jar with all his previous sonic screwdrivers (save the War Doctor’s), and portraits of River Song and Susan Foreman. In a way, he has more truly abandoned being The Doctor than even Ten did in “Human Nature,” and I really want to find out why.

Meanwhile, the plot is somewhat forgettable: it revolves around Bill’s crush on a girl named Heather (Stephanie Hyam), who discovers a puddle that gives a strange reflection. (It’s one of writer Steven Moffat’s trademark “optical effect” monsters.) After Heather takes a dip in the puddle, she comes back as a watery zombie—not unlike the watery zombies in the 2009 Who special “Waters of Mars”—who then chases Bill and the Doctor all over the universe. The real heart of the episode, though, lies in the spiky student-teacher relationship between the Doctor and Bill. With the Doctor an actual teacher (instead of simply lecturing on an amateur basis), his sparring with Bill is more vital and urgent than it has been with other recent Companions. And after years of the scarily competent Clara, it’s refreshing to see the Doctor paired up with a human who’s just figuring out the ropes—and whose quirky observations help to deflate the Doctor’s pomposity.

Overall, it was a hell of an episode. It’s been a while since showrunner Steven Moffat gave us a truly frightening monster, and Heather/The Pilot was one of his best. She was basically a science-fiction version of a rusalka, and Stephanie Hyam did an excellent job conveying both menace and tragedy as she stalked the Tardis crew across time and space like a BBC version of It Follows. Series 10 is off to a great start. It’s got its flaws, but it’s got its triumphs as well. I’m not looking forward to Capaldi’s exit, because this is just getting more fantastic by the minute.