Friday, February 28, 2014

Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos

So, if one believes in reincarnation, when you die, your soul goes into a big waiting room in the sky, until it gets reborn into some tiny baby or small animal somewhere on the planet. If Heinlein's soul was hanging around, it could very well have been too big for ordinary people, and have ended up having been split into smaller pieces of pie, and injected into multiple rebirths. If that's the case, I think there are a couple of candidates for channeling the soul of mid-career Heinlein out there right now - Peter Grant and Marko Kloos. They are both writing brand new stuff very much in the style and spirit of the Grand Master of SF, and I'm enjoying the heck out of it.

Andrew Grayson has grown up in a densely populated welfare enclave on Earth. Since his parents' divorce, both his mother and father have been trapped there, living on the public dole, and his fate would seem to be more of the same, aside from the opportunity afforded him by his good test scores to join the North American armed forces. If he completes basic, and serves his five year enlistment honorably, then he will be given mustering out pay which will probably be sufficient for him to relocate to one of the suburban areas where people have jobs, businesses, and lives which are not dependent on government largess.

Earth has established dozens of colonies in far away star systems, which are divided between those controlled by the NA alliance and those which are owned by the Sino-Russians. The two factions of Earth are constantly skirmishing against one another, fighting proxy wars in the colonies. Recruit Grayson hopes to become a part of the Space Navy and to serve out among the stars.

Much of the early portions of the story are familiar to anyone who has ever experienced basic training, or had a child or spouse go through basic training, and eventually Grayson graduates, and immediately is assigned to the TA or Terran Army, responsible for keeping the peace on Earth, rather than past the outer limits. He is disappointed at first, but finds out rapidly that the job is not as boring as he thought it would be, especially when they are called on to dispel a riot in one of the welfare cities. The rioters turn out to be far better armed and organized than anyone had expected, and Grayson's platoon comes under heavy fire, taking major casualties, while trying to rescue the air crew of a downed shuttle (think Black Hawk Down) before the mob can get there.

In order to take out some of the rioter's crew-served weaponry, Andrew ends up firing a rocket into the top floors of an apartment building, presumably causing some "collateral damage". He is seriously wounded, himself, while half carrying his platoon sergeant back to friendly lines, and ends up recovering in the hospital for a while. Some of the rear echelon officers have ideas about hanging him out to dry for his war crime, but the sergeant he rescued knows about some skeletons in the brass closets and gets him reassigned to the Space Navy, instead, right where he wanted to be in the first place.

Andrew is a good kid, a hard worker, who just did what he had to do to save his buddies from near certain death, and he does just fine in his new assignment, and has a number of interesting adventures by the time the book is through, including being part of the mission that encounters a hostile alien race for the first time in history. A read that was hard to put down, even when my eyelids got heavy.

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