The truth is out. No longer are the Skinks just a horrible secret haunting the Marines of Company L. Now the aliens are all-too-real invaders whose savage attacks have devastated planet Kingdom, a world of squabbling religions where the men of the 34th FIST confront a desperate situation. Cities that haven’t already been reduced to rubble are under siege, while starving refugees roam the land. And still the Skinks come, rising from stinking primordial swamps to slake their thirst for slaughter, armed with an uncanny ability to locate the enemy and with weapons so deadly that a single blast can drop a warplane or a decimate a squad.
It’s painfully evident that 34th FIST is no match for these near-invincible killers, which is why third platoon’s been ordered to whip the citizens of Kingdom into fighting shape. With their backs to the wall and time running out, there’s only one way the Marines can turn these timid, quarrelsome men into warriors: Take the battle to the enemy. It’s a brilliant strategy, sure to succeed–if it doesn’t get them killed first. . . .
This is a good solid read in the Starfist series. This book is pretty much what you would expect from the authors and this series without any major surprises.
The book takes of seamlessly from the last book, Kingdom’s Swords, in the series. The book blurb states that “the truth is out” which is somewhat true at the end of the book but this doesn’t happen until General Aguinaldo, one of the more likable characters in the book, have bypassed a bunch of useless desk generals, and gone straight for the president about half way through. Near the end of the book Ambassador Spears does the same thing with a equally useless diplomat and bureaucrat. I quite liked these parts of the book where the pencil pushers, caring more about promoting each other’s careers than doing a real job, got their behinds whooped. This, we must keep the aliens a secret (even from those who really needed to know) attitude bugged me quite a lot in the previous book.
The useless desk generals and diplomats are not the only ones getting their behinds whooped. The FIST finally manages to kick some Skink behind as well although the religious fanatics on the planet are, of course, no real help. I’m not sure I really enjoy these bits of the book. Sure, it is fun when these complete morons are taken down like they deserve but it is clear that they are modeled after existing religious fanatics of our present day and their very existence today is depressing enough. Reading about them in the future is not something I really appreciate, at least not at any great length.
The humans also finally start to get some solid intelligence on the Skinks, including some understanding of their technology. Emphasize on “some” here. Their ability of travel at “beamspace”, the Starfist way of FTL, close to a gravity well is still not understood and in the final chapters they spring another technology related surprise on our dear friends.
A good chunk of the latter part of the book appears to be setting the stage for the next one so I assume that the next one will take off from where this one ended. It is not very clear which direction the next book will take though. It might be going after the Skinks again, which I would probably like, or it might only deal with certain humans that I will not reveal any details about to avoid spoilers. The latter I think I might not like so much though.
The famous “bottom line” is that this was a good solid read and an enjoyable book in the Starfist series.