Military sci-fi is not a sub-genre I’ve been naturally drawn to – or so I’ve thought. Renowned for its emphasis on tech and less on character development than your standard space opera, it’s been something I’ve tended to shy away from. But then again, when I think about it, some of my favourite sci-fi stories have been military-based – and none of them could be accused of half-assing it when it comes to the characters. Case in point: Battlestar Galactica, its reboot being one of the most character-rich sci-fi series out there.
I always meant to pick up something by Eric Brown after he said some very nice things about my sci-fi thriller, Plastic Jesus, in his review for The Guardian. He’s something of a veteran author within sci-fi, having released a wealth of material, both short and long form, since the late 80s so there’s quite the list to choose from. But for some reason, his 2007 release, Helix, always stood out to me.
The second book in the Expanse series of space opera goodness by James SA Corey (the pen name for co-authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), Caliban’s War continues the exploits of likely lad, Jim Holden, and his crew of misfits as they wreak merry carnage across the galaxy. Since the first book, things have become even more volatile, with Earth and Mars going to war and Venus quietly breeding a cross between Ridley Scott’s Alien and George Romero’s zombies. Meanwhile, Holden finds himself wham bam in the middle of it all with a trigger-happy Martian marine, potty-mouthed UN official and wiry little botanist who just wants to find his daughter.
I love these books because they don’t feel like books: it feels more like watching a TV series than reading. And, like all the best TV out there, I just wanted to bomb my way through it all in one sitting.
In short, this is some of the best sci-fi I’ve ever read. If you’re not onboard with this series already, remedy that right now.
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