Update 3: I read WE ARE LEGION (We Are Bob) which probably isn’t technically military SF, but it has some elements, and I want to talk about it so I’m including it here. Plus the sequel is due out in April, so it’s timely. First off, it’s a great book with a fun voice that’s reminiscent of Scalzi, where it’s not absurd in it’s humor, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, either. The premise of the book is that the the majority of space exploration, and the war for other systems, won’t include people at all, but will be conducted by Von Neumann probes. That we will send AIs out to do our exploration and conduct our conflicts for resources/domination. I don’t want to give too much more away than that about the premise. The book looks at several different aspects of exploration and space combat, and I think it’s a great take on one way that space wars might be fought in the future. It relies on potentially possible physics, using a similar construct as THE FOREVER WAR, where ships are able to reach near light speed but are bound by things such as acceleration and g force. I recommend this to anybody who likes military SF and also wants to think about it theoretically. If you’re looking for space marines taking an alien planet, this isn’t for you. But if you want a look at how technology might approach a war in the vastness of space, this is your book.
Update 2: I read MECHANICAL FAILURE by Joe Zieja. It’s a humorous military SF that jumps right into the story and moves well throughout. It’s a lot of fun. Sort of a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy vibe. Some will likely find the humor a bit simple, and some of the gags do get repetitive by the end, but I smiled the entire time I was listening to it, and I laughed out loud several times. For those who have served in the military, Zieja takes the bureaucracy and ramps it up to absurd levels. And some of it is frighteningly real (in a funny way.) And it’s brilliant the way that all of the things, absurd and otherwise, come together at the end and mean something to the story. Sort of like an absurdist version of Chekhov’s Gun. I recommend it. I especially recommend the audio book, narrated by the author. I’ll be adding the next installment to my TBR.
I read NINEFOX GAMBIT by Yoon Ha Lee. I really liked it. Truth be told, the first 75 pages or so are tough to get through, as the world is so different from anything else that it’s a bit confusing until you get the hang of it. This is immensely complex and imaginative SF. It’s definitely military, as the entire book takes place around a war, but it’s more about the innovative weapons and the worldbuilding, which is incredible. I can safely say it’s like nothing you’ve read before. The world is based around a calendar, which has functions of both government and religion. By keeping to the correct calendar and observing the right holidays, it creates a basis for magical effects implemented by means of complex mathematical equations. That’s right — it’s a world that’s ruled by mathematicians. Except cooler. Any deviation from the calendar is deemed heretical, and that’s the basis for the story. A group has broken away from calendar, causing calendrical rot, and a young officer is promoted to general and sent to deal with the issue using a most unique weapon. The military aspects are more at the strategic than tactical level, and the weapons used are so unique as to not fit with any other military SF I’ve read. If you’re looking for a good, light, war in space book, this isn’t it. Who will like it: Fans of Ann Leckie who also like the military aspects of science fiction. It would not surprise me to see this nominated for a Hugo this year. I will definitely be putting the sequel on my to be read list.
I’m reading THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE and THE STARS ARE LEGION. I’m not sure either of them are military SF, but I’ll let you know once I’m finished.
A funny thing happened recently. In a few places I’ve proclaimed Jay Posey’s OUTRIDERS as the best military science fiction book of the year. And I stand by that. But then the question came up: how do I know? I do read a lot of military SF. But when I went through the list of writers I read this year, it was more like a list of classics than a modern list. Since I know a lot of people who read, I often get asked for recommendations. And I feel like I’m not doing a good job of pointing people to the best new military SF.
So I’m going to fix that.
This year, I aim to read more new military SF, and to highlight the best of the category. At some point I’ll do a post and talk about the best that I’ve read. But where to start? If you’re name isn’t Scalzi or Campbell, chances are your military SF isn’t getting a huge release. So that’s where you come in. Use the comments to recommend a book, and I’ll put it on my list to read.
1. It has to be available on Kindle.
2. Bonus if there’s an audio version…my audio TBR list is shorter than my written TBR, and I spend a lot of time in a car and the gym.
3. The book must have been published in the last two years.
4. Self Pubs are okay, but only recommend it if you personally read it and liked it. There are some really good self-pubs out there, but there are also some really bad ones.
5. If book six is published this year, I might consider going back to book 1 to read. But I’m not sure that would be high on my list.
6. If you spam my page with buy links, I’m going to delete the comment and not read the book.
How I operate:
1. I don’t say negative things about books, unless there’s something patently distasteful about it (for example, if the book openly promotes racism, I’m going to say something.) I have two categories of books. Books I recommend, and books I don’t. If I don’t recommend them, I simply won’t talk about them publicly. I’m a positive person. That’s just how I roll.
2. While I don’t say negative things about books, I’m also not very patient. I’ll quit on a book pretty quick if it’s not working for me.
3. I’m not a book reviewer. Once in a while I do review books over at To The Shelves, but it would only be a positive review (see #2)
4. I’m open to ARCs, if you’ve got them. And if I like them I’ll cross post short reviews to Goodreads and Amazon.
So there you go. If you’ve got a recommendation, put it in the comments. If you want to talk to me about it, use the contact form. Stop back occasionally to see what’s on the To Be Read List.