A novel by Michael G. Thomas
(2011, Swordworks Books)
A group of newly-trained marines attempt to take back an important
military base taken over by a radical zealot group.
Read January 14th to
19th, 2015 on my ipad
So poorly written that I almost put the
book down after the first page. However, I persevered, and although the
writing did not improve, the story grew into something that I could have
enjoyed, given a different author. The conflict in that solar system and
the history of it and the coming conflict are certainly worth pursuing,
but I don't think I can read another book by this author.
For most of the book, I pretty much rewrote it in my own
words in my mind, so that I could at least enjoy the story to a certain
extent. The author overuses stock phrases has some favorite words. The
grammar is horrendous and there are so many repeated words that it makes
a more difficult read than it should have been. But once I got over the
author's style, or lack thereof, and inserted my own words and corrected
his phrasing, it was a pretty easy read. The book is quite short, ten
chapters of 20-22 pages each, that it didn't take long to get through.
It's too bad the writing was so horrible, because there was a good
story trying to get out, I think. The background was well thought-out.
This is military science fiction, with lots of description of weapons,
ships, armor and fighting techniques. The evolution of the Commonwealth,
with its capital on Proxima Prime, while Earth grew more remote and
backwater, seemed quite realistic, and it held my interest in terms of
culture and setting. The author talks of a war that occurred decades
ago, which in a way spurred the current unrest, and which adds a nice
touch of a backstory to the current story.
The story, the first
in a large multi-book series which I will unfortunately not be reading,
takes place almost entirely from the point of view of Spartan, a man who
was sentenced to ten years in the marines after killing a police officer
during a raid on illegal pit fight in which he was taking part (he had a
choice, but the other option was go do a decade in prison). He goes
through military training, and does well because he already has great
fighting skills. What he lacks in precision shooting, he makes up for in
hand-to-hand combat. During the training, we get to see various shooting
techniques and bullets, which of course are all used to a certain extent
later in the book.
The bad guys in the story are the generic
religious zealots, identified only by their single-mindedness in
destroying all who do not believe. We are led to believe that they can
convert planetfuls of people into this single-minded drive, thousands
and thousands of them, who are all willing to give up their lives so
that the dream of whatever they believe in can continue. They often
don't even carry long-range weapons, so they throw their lives away into
a wall of bullet-fire. While I can see a number of people doing this,
the zealots seem to have recruited such a number that defies all reason,
given the size of the population. It is not even clear if they give
people a chance to convert before killing them.
The first half
of the book tells us about Spartan's training and how he meets his
current group of comrades, Teresa, Jesus, and others. I really wondered
if we were going to see the trio of men he assaulted before his training
even began. Maybe they show up in a future book -otherwise I'm not sure
of the purpose of that fight.
We also get introduced to a
Lieutenant on a warship who has invented a new type of projectile weapon
for use in its railguns. It is obvious that this technique will be used
later in the book, and the only surprise is how late they wait to use
it. When the uprising starts, he is almost killed, but signals an alarm
that alerts the senior crew to the potential takeover, which is
The fleet is put into action as the zealots take
control of the largest military base in the sector, as well as the space
stations that provide access to the surface of the planet. The new
recruits such as Spartan's group is put in charge of silencing the guns
to that troops can land and rescue civilians and military personnel. The
fighting is well described, once the sentence structure and grammar is
corrected, and it is all very exciting. The author managers to pour much
intensity into the writing despite his inability to write. By the end, I
was interested, despite myself.
Spartan and his group manage to
fight their way through to the control center and silence the guns,
while the battle cruisers slug it out a little further away. Spartan then
takes his group to rescue another cell of civilians as the cruiser
finally uses the modified weapons to cover a boarding party that
destroys its power plant, rendering it useless.
There is not
much else to the book, except getting inside the control center and the
brief action on the battle cruiser. Things go fast, and there is not
actually much more that could be told. The book ends with the zealots
routed from the military base, but suddenly on the attack on Prime
itself with mutant or hybrid humans, who have weapons and armor embedded
within their bodies, making them very difficult to kill. It is really an
introduction to the second book, and didn't really fit within the rest
of this story, though the setup is there.
The hero of the book
survives, as does Teresa, with whom Spartan has fallen in love, though
they only share sex and concern for each other at this point. One of the
main supporting characters dies, but the door is left open for him to
return as possibly one of those transformed zealots. Other characters
are not so lucky, like the ones on the automated transfer ship, who were
there only to show us how the zealots hijacked their ship to crash into
the military base and take it over.
Although the descriptions of
weapons and armor are given in detail, there is too much comparison of
them to the way things were done in the twentieth century, as if the
readers can't imagine things by ourselves, to we need to be reminded of
how navy operations are done in our own time. It would have been more
interesting if he compared things to the 22nd century techniques, as if
we already knew about them.
I wish the writing in this
book was better, because I think I could have gotten interested in the
rest of the series. But I'm not planning to put myself through that kind
of writing again.