In all honesty, I did not enjoy this book and had a hard time pushing through after around 50% through. It’s not a bad book but it kind of falls victim to a lot of the shortcomings of military sci fi genre: they read like a 1990s US/Western military but with sci fi trappings. That means all the sexism, machismo, and marty stu tropes are present and the sci fi is nebulous window dressing.
Story: Andrew Ritchie is a small colony doctor who decides to become a grunt in the war against insectoid aliens (and not use his medical background and instead open combat). But when he saves some VIP lives in a battle, he comes to the notice of the higher ups and gets assigned to the new Valkyrie Medevac Corps. Cue training montages. The war against the aliens heats up as Ritchie chews gum and pops bad guys.
Right off the bat, it was kind of eye rolling to see the very male sexist comments. With women serving equally in the future, you’d think the military wouldn’t still objectify women. But yeah, with great analogies such as, “”Plasmafire,” he explained with the type of smile you get when your girl sends you a picture wearing less material than a glove.” or “He was covered with ticks like bills on a stripper’s G-string” (that analogy doesn’t even work!), or noticing that the bar girls were ‘showing actual legs. And cleavage” as if only women work the bars and not e.g., shirtless men.
I don’t want to drone on about the sexism so I’ll just say that the female characters didn’t fare any better. Our main character, for the first part of the book, comes in contact with two females. Both are ‘ballbusters’ to our main character – one is a superior and one is a squadmate. Neither are well rounded female characters. The squadmate is describe as “if she wasn’t my squaddie and a genuinely heartless bitch, I might have taken a liking to her.” And the superior is there to stand in his way of ‘doing the right thing’ and be a maternal-like pain in his butt for her stupidity. It was hard to slog through at that point.
But the usual Marty Stu cliches are there: macho guy who fights the authority because he knows he is right, he has superior skills to everyone, he can do/fight about anything, and just kind of swaggers through. That worked in the 1980s for movies like Top Gun but it just feels silly and unimaginative in this day and age.
The sexism and Marty Stu are annoying and I could slog through the rest of the story if the writing wasn’t so jumpy. It felt like a book written from a bullet point list; too few segues, not enough exposition to really explore the environment or get a feel for the characters, and a very disenfranchising story. The plot just jumped from action point to action point as if afraid the audience had a short span of attention and couldn’t handle exploratory or emotive moments. I don’t expect a CJ Cherryh experience here but I also at times felt like I was reading a novelization of a Michael Bay movie.
As I noted earlier, it’s not terrible and there is an audience for this kind of macho gung ho militaristic sci fi. I just found it unsatisfying and my eyes hurt from rolling them all the time. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.