Mankind has spread to the stars, only to become locked in warfare with an insidious alien race. All that stands against the alien menace are the soldiers of the Simulant Operation Programme, an elite military team remotely operating avatars in the most dangerous theatres of war.
Captain Conrad Harris has died hundreds of times – running suicide missions in simulant bodies. Known as Lazarus, he is a man addicted to death. So when a secret research station deep in alien territory suddenly goes dark, there is no other man who could possibly lead a rescue mission.
But Harris hasn’t been trained for what he’s about to find. And this time, he may not be coming back . . .
I am quite surprised by the quality of this book given that it is claimed to be the debutant work of this author. There is a compelling, well worked out and somewhat original story (although comparisons with Avatar are unavoidable) the characters are well made and the writing is exceptionally good for a debutant.
Although there are some fierce space battles at the beginning of the book most of the story plays itself out on the ground. Also, I have to say that, the space battles mostly felt like world war one battleships slowly pounding at each other until one of them succumbed. Given my preferences for the “space stuff” in my books this was of course a wee bit disappointing.
Having said that, the ground action is well done and the story is indeed a fairly interesting and compelling one. It is not your usual “drop to the surface and start shooting” kind of story. For a good chunk of the book the story is more of a mystery and intrigue kind of story rather than a straightforward action story even though the marine action is plentiful. Strange artefacts, a mad professor, mercenaries with dubious loyalties, aliens a’ la Starship Troopers and a backdrop of two competing political human blocks. All of it adds some nice twists and flavours to the book and makes it elevate itself a bit from the usual military science fiction that we readers are served.
The main thread of the story is interleaved with flashbacks into Harris’ past. I can understand why the author did it that way but I have to say that I do not like flashbacks whether it is in a book, a TV show or a movie. They did serve their purpose of gradually building the universe and life of Captain Conrad Harris but I just whish the author would have found another way of doing it.
As a start of a series it is a good book. As a debutant work is it quite impressive. The next one in the series is already on my reading list.