Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos, landed on my to-be-read pile some time ago. I even bought the audio book with some credits I had saved up. Let me say right now that I am glad it found its way back to the top of my list. I recently finished the audio book and enjoyed it immensely.
The reason I set it aside was that I read the first few pages, which were good, but I had just read something similar with a person in a economically depressed future going off to basic training. Don’t get me wrong, I like these stories (both the fiction and the non fiction variety). Timing was the problem back then.
Once I cracked Terms of Enlistment open in earnest, I listened to the entire novel in about three days which is fast for me given the time available for such things. As Terms of Enlistment progressed, I found myself constantly with an earbud in and making excuses for more time to listen.
What follows is not really a spoiler, but may or may not be helpful. Please keep in mind these are merely impressions that popped into my head and not exact comparisons. Part one felt like the first half of Full Metal Jacket. Part two reminded me in a very entertaining way of Black Hawk Down. Part three might have been a spin on War of the Worlds, but not on Earth. Mr. Marko Kloos, if you read this, please take these examples as compliments. I found the novel well written, suspenseful and entertaining, and cared about the characters. The narrator, Luke Daniels, did an outstanding job as always.
Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith delivers suspense and excitement like few books I've read recently. The plot and subplots work well together. I quickly became invested in the lives of the point of view characters. The book opens with Commander Xavier Rodriguez making his 96th jump to lead his team to the surface from an airship containing the last remnants of humanity. Few Hell Divers survive anywhere close to this many missions. This reminded me of a book called Armor (by John Steakley) which revolved around a character that had made more planetary assaults there and was statistically possible.
But I digress.
The premise is that humanity has survived a nuclear holocaust by taking to the skies. (There is a reason they did this.) The airships were never meant to fly for so long. The Hell Divers must descend the surface to find parts and supplies. After 250 years, radiation has done terrible things to the few creatures able to stay alive.
As intriguing as the premise is, it’s the actual writing and the pacing of the plot points that makes this story great. Nicholas Sansbury Smith knows how to raise the stakes. The characters are always right on that line where you think they're able to handle what is being thrown at them and yet have little chance of survival.
I was particularly fond of the ending, which was suspenseful and full of imagery. I don't know if it is a cliffhanger exactly, but I definitely am looking forward to book two. I went and joined his mailing list after completing the book.
I began the Blood of Heroes, book 3 in the Ember War Saga with high hopes. Book 1, the Ember War reinvigorated my enthusiasm for military science fiction. Book 2, The Ruins of Antalas hooked me on the rest of the series. (I have not completed a written review on these two books but plan to soon.)
I wondered if Blood of Heroes could be as good?
Why would I stress about something so seemingly trivial? Because I really enjoy a good story. I don’t have time for junk. I value my recreational time so much as anyone and books take time to read and/or listen to.
For someone as jealous of my time as anyone, I had questions.
Would Richard Fox let me down as so many authors have in the past? Third books are hard to write. It takes talent to drive a story onward after the excitement of first contact. With two incredible books done, statistically it was time for disappointment.
Time to get excited. What was the Blood of Heroes about? I expected to see more of my favorite charcters: Elias, Lt. Hale and his Marines, and Stacy Ibarra. I loved the chapters with the Armored soldiers (Elias and company). Blood of Heroes not only had more of Elias, but Brazilian Armor as well. Awesome. As for what Elias does...mind blown. This guy knows how to make an enemy.
Without spoiling to much, I can say that some of the “Blood of Heroes” belongs to Lt. Hale. Book 2 ws when I really became addicted to the story of the Hale family. Book 3 has a bit less on this, but does not disappoint. All of this happens because Captain Isaac Valdar takes his ship and crew to rescue the Dotok on Takeni. (The Dotok are also threatened with extinction by the Xaros.) Everything that can go wrong does go wrong and some of the solutions are well imagined.
I consumed this book mostly in audio book format, though I also bought the Kindle version. (I should probably double check my spelling with the books.) I had high hopes and high standards going into Blood of Heroes.
Richard Fox remains one of my go-to military SF authors. I do, in fact, recommend this book to anyone who 1) likes to read, 2) has a fascination with strong characters, and 3) wants to read a series.