Monday, April 15, 2013

Review : The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata

I don't remember how "The Red: First Light" came on my radar, but I remember distinctly having thought: "Military SF ? From one of the Book View Cafe writers ? Nice !"

Now, for you who don't know about Book View Cafe, it's a cooperative publishing effort among authors across all genres, from science fiction to romance to historical to mainstream. They sell direct (or through big retailers) the ebooks from its member authors, new works as well as backlist. All that at good prices and without DRMs.

So, I added it quickly on my Wishlist, and bought it when I saw an other plug by Kristin Kathryn Rusch.

Now, as is usual on my blog, I won't dive into the description of the book's protagonists and on the story, but try and remain evasive to avoid any potential spoiler. Let's say that while the writing style is good, where the book really shines is in its themes and tech. Set in a near future, dominated by corporations, coo-petiting by greed of money and power, the tech has yet to reach the complete and widespread acceptance of implanted technology. Likewise, possibly since the story centers around a soldier, the civilian life doesn't seem as alienated as in good-old cyberpunk. So, while near cyberpunk, it's not there, yet.

Military, it is completely, with battles and powered armor. But here, the classical equipment got at last a much needed refurbishing, with technological items straight from the geeks catalog : integrated communications, drones etc. Not only that, but the author explores some of the implications, from a psychological POV as well as their use on the field. I'll miss this arsenal now, when not present in other Mil-SF books, always wondering why it's not there. It makes so much sense !

While we don't get much into the people's psychology, they don't seem cartoonish. The same can be said of the hero whose leading motivations are left mostly untouched and unexplored. I missed a more accentuated link or comprehension. I surmise the author has good reasons to write it that way and get some of them, but still, I find it missing.

That last point is the only one that kept the book "really good" instead of "Great", and I think it's followup could well grab the five stars. But this one stays between 4 and 4.5.

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