The alien forces known as the Lankies are gathering on the solar system’s edge, consolidating their conquest of Mars and setting their sights on Earth. The far-off colony of New Svalbard, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by the Lanky blockade, teeters on the verge of starvation and collapse. The forces of the two Earth alliances have won minor skirmishes but are in danger of losing the war. For battle-weary staff sergeant Andrew Grayson and the ragged forces of the North American Commonwealth, the fight for survival is entering a catastrophic new phase.
Forging an uneasy alliance with their Sino-Russian enemies, the NAC launches a hybrid task force on a long shot: a stealth mission to breach the Lanky blockade and reestablish supply lines with Earth. Plunging into combat against a merciless alien species that outguns, outmaneuvers, and outfights them at every turn, Andrew and his fellow troopers could end up cornered on their home turf, with no way out and no hope for reinforcement. And this time, the struggle for humanity’s future can only end in either victory or annihilation.
Generally this is a good book continuing the Frontlines story but I do indeed have some gripes with some aspects of the story. The book starts off with a nice piece of action where the Commonwealth and Sino-Russian alliance are actually kicking some Lankie behinds. However, then there is not really any follow up. They just waltz in, shot up some Lankies and then that course of action is more or less abandoned. During said attack there are some strange behavior on the Lankies side but that also leads nowhere except for some vague after-action discussions.
The rest of the book is devoted to the quest to bring the task force back home to Earth which is now under “blockade” by the Lankies who, for some strange reason, have taken Mars but then simply stopped. That is one huge part of the story that I have a real difficulty with. Why do the Lankies invade everything in sight (almost) but not Earth? We know they could do so easily so it is utterly illogical.
There are quite a bit of action going on in this book and it is quite well done. These parts of the book are reasonably realistic and the laws of physics are still respected even though this is science fiction. What still frustrates me though is that, after five years of combating the Lankies, the humans have still not come up with some heavy penetrator that can punch a hole in a Lanky ship. This annoys me enormously. Especially since we do get a second evidence that the Lankies can be hurt that way in this book and it would actually not be requiring quantum leaps in technology to achieve.
The book ends somewhat in a void as far as I am concerned. The task force do achieve their objectives although at high costs but Earth is not what it used to be and, of course, the Lankies are still at the doorstep. The outlook is not exactly a happy one but the book does not really hint at any path forward. Quite to the contrary. Some of the decisions by the characters to stay behind, for what looks like entirely nostalgic reasons, did not sit that well with me.
It is a shame really because the author does indeed write quite well. If there would have been less of the illogical elements in the story this would probably have been a great book. Now it is “just” good.