Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

The book begins at pretty much the same starting point as Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. Aliens (Martians) have attacked Earth and destroyed a city. The protagonist is full of patriotic fervor, and wants to kill some aliens and get revenge. Also, the military service grants citizenship, which offers many benefits. After the normal grueling basic training phase, the new recruits are ready for the war. The solders are changed to light and beamed to the battle. It is a new technology that isn’t really understood, and accidents where soldiers either materialize inside a tree or come back badly deformed are common.

The main character goes for her (the gender is actually revealed only at the end of the book) first battle, but she comes out in a totally different place from where the actual battle plan was. When she returns, she seems to return to a place which is different from where she left. Soon it turns out that she is unstuck at the time, and goes on her battle missions in more or less random order. She also returns, sometimes in the future and sometimes to the past. At first, she tries to discuss with her superiors what is going on, but the advice she gets is to always stick to mission briefing, and don’t discuss what you really experience. There have been other people like her, but most of them disappeared after they told what was happening to them. Slowly it turns out that literally nothing she was thought to be true is actually true. The battles aren’t against the evil aliens; the enemy they are fighting is something else.

This is an extremely good book that takes an all too familiar starting point and turns it to something totally new, refreshing, and interesting. The writing was also excellent. The main character was interesting, as her personality and way of thinking change, and her gender is kept secret in a very effortless way for most of the book – I hardly noticed that it wasn’t stated anywhere. This book will be on my Hugo nominations list.

356 pp.

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