Marko Kloos' saga of young infantryman--now an officer--Andrew Grayson and his pilot wife Diana Halley unleashed another installment at the end of February with Fields of Fire, the fifth book in his awesome FRONTLINES series. I've read it twice so far (it's a very fast, engaging read) and now it's time for the review...
Having defeated an assault by the alien Lankies on Earth (and apparently a couple more probes since then), the time has come for the nations of Earth to attack Lanky-held Mars and take it back from the aliens. Grayson returns to his role as a "pod-head," launched from a spaceship to call in orbital or nuclear bombardment on the ground, while Halley, having recovered from injuries incurred in the previous novel Chains of Command, will help fly in other forces once the beachheads are established.
But the Lankies have had a year and more to fortify Mars, and it won't be easy...
*Like the other books in the series, it's a very fast and engaging read. The first time I read it, it took only a couple days, in multi-chapter chunks. The second time around it was mostly gym reading, with a few bits done outside of my local LA Fitness. No more than four to six hours either time, with the second time probably less. Time flies when you're having fun, and I was having fun indeed.
*Per the above, once Grayson leaves Earth, this start rolling really fast and never let up. We have the Crowning Moment of Awesome battle in orbit, then the landings begin. Things go well, but then they go into the crapper real fast. And I kept reading to see what happened to Grayson and Halley.
*In one of my earlier reviews I pointed out that the Lankies in one of the books weren't described physically very well, but that's not a problem here. The descriptions are a lot more vivid and that's great.
*Some of the nasty surprises the Lankies unleash on Mars are foreshadowed early on.
*Kloos expands the world by introducing the reader to the EuroCorps, the German-dominated European federal military. The EuroCorps focuses on advanced, elegant technology, much like the efficient German engineering of today. The united Europe is also strongly anti-nuclear, a cultural continuity from Germany today that was no doubt amplified by the limited nuclear conflict that occurred around 100 years before the story began. It was very interesting to read about them, especially since Kloos was born in what used to be West Germany and served in its military during the Cold War.
*There are so many cool little details that one doesn't get them all on the first read. I didn't notice an interesting new characteristic of Lanky seed ships until the second read.
*The book explicitly ties itself in with the Frontlines Requiem comic series that tells what was going on in the Earth system during the events of Lines of Departure and Angles of Attack, including the Lanky conquest of Mars and the desertion of the North American Commonwealth's political elite with the most advanced military equipment.
*There are some amusing inside jokes, like the Battle of 47 Northing. 47 North is Amazon's science fiction imprint that picked up the FRONTLINES series after Kloos experienced remarkable success self-publishing it, and "northing" and "easting" is a way of marking coordinates on a map. During the Gulf War, there was the Battle of 73 Easting, for example.
*We finally learn why Halley is alienated from her family, to the point she hates her own first name.
*There are repeated references to aircraft losses, some of them quite substantial, but the Lankies groundside don't have any sort of ranged attacks, let alone antiaircraft capability. The only time "on-screen" we see Lankies taking out aircraft is if they're close enough to grab them, although in the first book Terms of Enlistment an aircraft that made an attack run on a Lanky terraforming tower is taken out by something.
Chains of Command I didn't like enough to review it (it wasn't bad, it was just okay), but this is an excellent return to form. 9.0 out of 10.
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