by John Steakley
5 Stars.png

I was at work last week and a coworker mentioned this book as being one of the most schizophrenic books he had ever read.  He told me in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t worth my time.  Let me tell you, he was wrong!  Take Haldeman’s The Forever War and Heinlein’s Starship Troopers  and lump this one right in there with it to make a trifecta of wonderful military science fiction.

The book is “schizophrenic” but I feel that was by design.  The story is told from multiple perspectives and I think it tells a very compelling story about the psychological impact of war and the resiliency of the human mind in coping with the extreme.

Felix is a soldier on the front lines and the odds are stacked so far against him that it is a foregone conclusion that he will never live to see the end of the war.  However, that doesn’t stop him from fighting and suffering and overcoming.  The monsters they are fighting aren’t human, but giant creatures similar to ants.  All throughout the fighting the author notes Felix’s “engine”.  This is the ability that Felix has to turn off his feelings, emotions, and fear to just react.  It makes for very compelling reading.

Part of this story is also told through another character,  Jack Crow.  He is a con artist and criminal that happens upon a suit of armor.  These parts are told in the first person as opposed to Felix’s third person and are generally a bit slower of a read.  It almost feels as if a different author wrote Jack’s part of the story.  While it is slower, its easy to tell that it a conflict is building, and it easily kept my interest.  I have to say though, that while the Jack Crow parts were good, I couldn’t wait to get back to reading about Felix.

As a military veteran, I think this book captures the brutality and truculence of war while still having a protagonist who is flawed and likable.  He may be a cruel and efficient killing machine, but he hates every second of it.

I don’t think this book would be enjoyable for those who aren’t into science fiction and military novels, and using Starship Troopers and The Forever War is a good measurement of whether or not you will enjoy this book.  It will definitely be on my list to read again soon.


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