The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to two thousand calories of badly flavored soy every day:
You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service.
With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price…and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums
Sometimes I was a bit hesitant about whether I liked this book or not but in the end I have to say that I liked it. It is the first in a series so I guess a lot depends on how the series develops but for now I think would say that it is a good start.
The book centers around Andrew Grayson who is a so called “welfare rat”. It seems that it is a popular concept today, that people will resort to live off government handouts, among authors writing about dystopian futures. I guess it is an easy conclusion to come to seeing how useless bureaucratic, money wasting constructs like EU are thundering ahead but I for one hope that people, especially politicians, comes to their senses before it is too late. Anyway, Andrew wants out of the system and the only way he can find is to enlist.
So he enlists. Naturally this means basic training etc. Thus what follows is a fairly classical boot camp story. It is quite well done. The main character is rather likable and the various training episodes and events are enjoyable reading. The one thing that disturbs me a bit is Andrew’s lack of ambition above “not sticking out” and “doing as he is told”.
Once Andrew graduates he quickly makes new friends and still manages to hang on to the romance he started at boot camp. Unfortunately he also encounters military bureaucracy, politics and general asshole mentality which has some profound impacts on his career choices. I do not really like this part very much. I do not like the political assholes and the way they are trying to set Andrew up. However I also do not like the profound changes to Andrews career. You simply cannot flip between so diverse tasks, and still be really skilled in them, like that.
At this point I was really hesitant about whether I liked the book.
However just after that point the book picked up quite a bit of speed and added a few twists which started to make things really interesting. I will not go into any details since it would be a big spoiler but for me the last part of the book elevated it from a “I’m not really sure” to a “quite enjoyable” level.
As I wrote, it depends on how the series progresses but as a whole I did enjoy this book and will give the next one in the series a shot as well. As a debut novel it certainly merits a “work well done”.