First of a new science-fiction trilogy from the author of Halo: Silentium (2013, etc.).
In the not-too-distant future, interstellar aliens known as the Gurus arrive on Earth and make humanity an offer it cannot refuse: tremendously advanced technology. There’s a catch, of course. The Gurus have enemies of their own, the Antagonists, and would like help to fight them. So Earth creates a new combat force, “skyrines,” marines who can fight in space or on planets such as Mars, where, it turns out, the “Antags” have already established a beachhead. Veteran skyrine Master Sgt. Michael Venn prepares with his troops for another drop onto the dusty Martian surface, their mission curiously ill-defined. Attacked immediately as he drops, Venn finds himself stranded on the ground with a handful of companions, no backup, no communications or prospect of relief and rapidly running out of air. Fortunately, they’re rescued by Teal, a settler, or “Muskie” (named after Elon Musk), and conveyed to a secret Muskie base, the Drifter, where things rapidly get weirder. A bunch of belligerent, racist Voors (also settlers) show up in pursuit of Teal, followed by a platoon of female skyrine special operations troopers, all with their own secret agendas. Meanwhile, in flash-forwards (so we know Venn doesn’t die—at least, not yet), a mystifyingly transformed Venn has returned to Earth, where he waits for the mysterious “Joe” to contact him. Packed with adventure and incident, though remarkably little actual combat, and conveyed with gritty realism via characters that have personalities, Bear’s first-person narrative builds to a satisfying order of complexity, one he’s rarely shown since his earliest days, though readers hoping for one more step up—such as a military backlash or a splash of social acid—will be thwarted.
An intriguing story, but fiction at this high a level deserves just a little more.