The latest book continues the trend. In high level terms, you probably know what you’re going to get going in, at this stage in the series. There’s the delightful relationship between Major Andrew Grayson and his dropship-pilot wife Halley, which highlights the travails of making a relationship work alongside a military career, but also portrays that relationship as genuine, warm and caring.
And alongside that there’s the camaraderie and rivalry of inter-service teams, going into combat with alien enemies one might never understand, trying to get through the day, to survive, to make sure your luck doesn’t run out. And the odd enmity, of course because even when humanity is menaced by creatures bigger than houses which just want to flatten us and get on with their colonising, people found a way to make feuds themselves. Those relationships are at the heart of this story, and Halley and Andrew’s is the soul. It’s a warm bath, a love which allows for the flaws of the people involved, but also shows us some of the good and hope and long-steeped affection they have for each other - the way people who’ve lived together a long time do.
Of course those relationships are cloaked in a world that’s coming back out of a near-extinction event. Where out there, somewhere, are aliens who want us all dead. But where the veterans of that last war are slipping into obsolescence. Things are quiet now, why not forever? |This is a world that isn’t rash, but perhaps arrogant in its victories. A world that respects sacrifices, but is starting to forget what it was like to make them. Earth is building ships to fight a threat that it half thinks of as ended. If the slums and tenements are now fewer than before, still, the centre is not holding. Privilege and power sit on the knife edge of revolution yet - and the threat of the alien aggressor helps keep folk in line, even as they dismiss it. And the military arm where we spend our time - well, Kloos has an eye for the culture, the can do, and the tensions between levels of unit command. Our protagonists are leaders now, and they struggle under the weight of that - and they may yet butt heads with others in similar positions.
The story is, well, something new. It’s a little slower, perhaps, than one might think. Ratchets the tension up, one turn of the screw at a time. And it wants to let you think about what lies ahead. This is the slowly soaring score, the trek toward the peak. But it has all the action one might want, in space, where the glimmer of reaction drives is the evidence of total disaster, and on the ground, where dead worlds and staccato gunfire mean that humanity has once again found itself in something messy. And in both cases it carries the sense of visceral energy, humanity, bravery and chaos and hope and loss that makes up a war, lets you feel the iron on your tongue, and gets you to turn the page.
Kloos has given us another fine instalment in his series, and as ever, I think you should read it; I know it left me wanting more.