In this first installment of an interconnected-world series, a disgraced business executive in the treacherous future seeks to earn redemption by joining a commando outfit on a perilous mission to save humanity.
Debut author Oberon’s high-powered entry in an incipient Earth 340K (Soldier X) series imagines the planet in the year 339,999 as an environmentally devastated, simmering battleground between more than a dozen competing empires. There exists a somewhat matriarchal (but no less violent for it) overarching society in which, as far as this stand-alone’s female protagonist is concerned, Hindu culture predominates. Saradi Anantadevi-Alfsson, a hard-charging executive of the elite classes, jockeys for influence and escalating pay bonuses in an aerospace multinational that has a vital contract to produce rare spaceship-building ore for the “Greatest Scientist,” a 9-year-old girl. The prodigy/messiah’s scheme—taking select Earth colonists to distant, habitable worlds that she’s discovered—remains humanity’s best gamble for survival. Saradi’s ruthless business dealings to satisfy the Greatest Scientist cause a handful of deaths, forfeiture of her job and high-tech luxury lifestyle, and estrangement from her troubled family and fragile daughter. Her only chance for redemption: joining the Austro-Asian military’s commando teams in a near-suicidal raid into enemy territory, where Saradi’s soldier-brother (and, readers learn in a first-act shocker, secret incestuous lover) disappeared. Fortunately, Saradi’s top-level aesthetic body “upgrades” grant her physical prowess that gives the one-time boardroom shark a chance to persevere alongside roughneck warriors many times her size. This boot-camp narrative of suffering and salvation is familiar stuff, and the initially hateful heroine’s transformation into a tough-but-compassionate GI Jane becomes a little pat. But the story satisfies in a hard-combat sci-fi context, bristling with exotic battle gear and weaponry. One might guess Oberon to be a fan of Japanese sci-fi animation like the Gundam Wing series. The similarities include not only the Asia-Pacific settings and occasional insinuation of “mech” robot fighters, but also Saradi’s resemblance to the genre trope of a “tsundere,” a ferocious and beautiful alpha mean girl with a secretly vulnerable emotional core.
A richly detailed futuristic premise, crackling battle scenes, and a gender twist march alongside a tried-and-true combat sci-fi formula.