Monday, March 3, 2014

Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos

 Now that the Earth is at war with the alien "Lankies" 80 foot tall quadrupeds who are stealing our terraformed planets and remodeling them to their liking, you would think that the Russians, Chinese and the North Americans would all decide it was time to get along and fight the common enemy, but you'd be wrong, if you're reading Lines of Departure, second in Kloos' series about Andrew Grayson and his friends.

It's said that life in the military is months and months of boredom punctuated by short periods of sheer terror. At least Kloos doesn't inflict on us the long, boring stretches, he merely references them in Andrew's occasional musings, and we don't get the blow by blow description of how he made each and every rank in the service, just a snapshot of each career decision.

In a way, it seems like Kloos has a checklist of all of the possible scenarios for interesting types of battles fought in the alternate future he's created. In this book, Andrew begins with a combat drop on New Wales, where he is responsible for calling in nuclear strikes on the Lankies' terraformers and settlements. After that mission ends well, for a change, he gets some leave time and spends part of it with his mother on Earth, where we get a brief glimpse of what life outside the welfare PRCs is like, at least, then he heads to the Moon Base where his girlfriend Halley is stationed as an instructor.

His next mission, which should be a cakewalk compared to fighting the giant aliens, is to destroy a Sino-Russian force guarding one of their colony worlds, so that the North American Union can take possession, is going so well that I was really starting to worry. Justifiably, as just as he and his allies are about to wrap things up, the aliens appear on the scene and manage to destroy most of the Earth fleet. Only by disobeying a direct order is Andrew able to get most of his platoon off planet, where they are aided and abetted by a spaceship captain who puts the safety of his men ahead of all else, and manages to get them a ride back to Earth despite long odds against them.

One always knows, when James Bond falls for one of the Bond Girls in the movies, that the poor dear is going to come to a bad end, usually. And one wonders, after Halley and Andrew decide to get married in six months, whether Andrew is going to be able to fulfill his promise to return to the Moon for his nuptials on time - the storytelling conventions would seem to be against it.

And, indeed, his next assignment takes him to a metaphorical Siberia, where Andrew and other troublemakers, including his old Staff Sergeant Fallon, are supposed to take control of a civilian research facility, while Earth locks down its FTL network to keep the Lankies away from the home system. Andrew just can't seem to stay out of trouble, though, and he and his old allies from the TA get up to more mischief that is really going to land him in hot water if he ever gets the chance to return home.

More good storytelling, wondering what the conclusion to the trilogy will bring.

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