Category: marines in space

Sometimes I’m lucky enough to read two wildly different genres by the same author. The last time I had the chance to review one of Myke Cole’s works was a couple years ago, this is actually his first book with Angry Robot. I got to read it for review thanks to netGalley, here’s Sixteenth Watch. Enjoy!

Sixteenth Watch cover

After a riot between Helium 3 miners evolves into a brief, tragic armed conflict between American and Chinese naval forces career Search-and-Rescue woman Captain Jane Oliver is returned to Earth and a teaching position away from the sixteenth watch and the death of her husband. But tensions remain high and the best hope of preventing the first lunar war rests with the Coast Guard. Oliver has a new mission, return to the moon, get the Coast Guard SAR-1 team ready to win this year’s Boarding Action, and prove that they are the right force to keep the peace.

Myke Cole’s Sixteenth Watch feels like a bit of an odd duck when it comes to military science fiction. It feels more character focused and less hard sci-fi than other military sci-fi I have read in the past. How things are done is important, but pulling the team together is more so. Each member of the SAR-1 team is the best at what they do in the Coast Guard, but they have issues jelling with each other.

This is also the most anti-war military sci-fi that I have ever read. The entire reason Oliver is there is because the Coast Guard are a better fit for policing the folks avoiding quarantine without starting an armed conflict than the Navy is. The goal is to avoid a war, to keep things cold as it were, to keep people not only on the moon but also back on Earth safe.

But the only way to convince people to take them seriously is to win what is essentially a massive sporting event, so she has to get the Coast Guard team ready to secure a victory against the Marine team that has won several years running. It kind of winds up being funny, how the ability to keep war from breaking out on the moon is dependent on them winning what’s essentially a sporting event, but it is treated dead seriously and a lot of the challenges Oliver faces wind up being in service to getting her team the kind of practice they need to come together as a team. In a lot of ways that takes the place of a proper antagonist, no single person is standing between the SAR-1 team and active work and the Marine team is brilliantly good at what they do rather than antagonistic. That lack of a direct antagonist feels to the book’s credit. It would be weird if there was just one person actively pushing for the Coast Guard team to fail, rather than any number of people following orders that happened to get in their way or following their own need to see someone else succeed or getting wrapped up in the idea that a war is going to happen so they need to be backing the Navy over the Coast Guard. It is a complicated situation that Cole chose not to simplify.

This actually stands in something of a contrast to the pacing and the characters other than Oliver and her XO. At several points in the plot I found myself naming off the part of the hero’s journey that was coming up. This is very much not a complaint, the hero’s journey is the basis for a lot of stories, but it did make the flow of things a little predictable. I would have liked to have seen more character for the SAR-1 team, a lot of Sixteenth Watch is focused on Oliver working towards getting the team ready and working through the trauma of the events of the beginning of the book, which does not leave much space for the Boarding Action team. I would have liked to have seen more of them growing together as a unit and more individual growth for each of them. But, again, that is mostly a personal quibble the team are not the focus of the book. Oliver is the protagonist, so of course she gets the most focus on her arc.

Ultimately Sixteenth Watch leaves me wanting more, if not a further series with these characters, then more writing in a similar vein from Cole. He is definitely an author I am going to try and keep a better eye on now. This one gets a five out of five from me.

Heart of Valor

It seemed like a decent idea to go ahead and post another review, since this is new and fairly empty.  So I went through my bookshelf for a novel that I remembered really enjoying, something that wasn’t the first in the series but also contributed to my wanting to read the first two books just to get to it.  It was a pretty easy choice:

I started reading Tanya Huff’s Confederation novels a while back after picking up the omnibus of the first two novels.  The world was fantastic, the characters were believable, and Kerr was just all kinds of awesome.  I must admit that I was a little hesitant in reading Heart of Valor because of the return of Craig Ryder, the stubborn love interest from the previous book, he seemed a little unnecessary in that capacity.

After fighting the Silsviss and exploring Big Yellow, Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr is the talk of the station.  Understandably she finds this tiring and when offered a chance to temporarily escape, she jumps at it.  It is supposed to be glorified babysitting on a training planet, what’s the worst that can happen?  They hit dirt and the fun starts, the officer in command is struck ill, the simulation goes off program, and now the shots are all for real.  What follows is the sci-fi deliciousness that I have come to expect from this series and the awesome writing that I’ve come to expect from Ms. Huff.  That is, until the ending which felt a bit rushed, like there should have been more but she ran out of time.

Gunnery Sergeant Kerr is the same brave, somewhat snarky marine from the first two books.  The non-Kerr marines remain believably human, with individual quirks and habits.  The di’Taykan still want to sex everyone, the Krai still find almost everything edible, and anyone can still die.  I look quite forward to reading the fourth novel.