In Lambright’s debut war novel, the future is revealed to be just as violent as the past as Paul Thompson battles insurgents—not to mention his own combat trauma—on a faraway colony planet in the 24th century.
Paul is an armored infantry officer on Juneau 3, one of the countless worlds inhabited by humans after the mass exodus to the stars that began in the mid-21st century after the invention of the Glimmer drive. No native intelligent life exists on any of the colony worlds; however, the Pan-American forces are still needed to quell the dissident activity that seems to pop up on nearly every planet, no matter how remote. Paul’s current assignment, his third combat rotation, is so far turning out to be his most intense yet. The Baradna Valley, which some readers may see as comparable to desolate Afghanistan, is full of action that keeps Paul and his team on their toes—in fact, even with the military’s modern technology, which includes armored combat suits and digital halos that connect soldiers in the blink of an eye, Paul is experiencing stress levels that are approaching unhealthy. Nevertheless, not wanting to let his team down, he continues to go out on deadly missions while reminiscing about the path that led him to Juneau 3, changing his life forever. Although Lambright, who is a veteran, provides detailed insight into the realities of being in combat, the novel’s 24th-century setting is somewhat awkward. Paul fights Pashtun, Bedouin and Tuareg insurgents in the deserts of alien planets that are almost exact replicas of certain areas of Earth; the sense that current-day issues have been simply copied and pasted onto another century and planet is overwhelming. The lack of a cohesive plot is also problematic. If the story were slower and more introspective, delving deeper into Paul’s mental and emotional states, then the lack of a traditional story structure might work a bit better. But Lambright doesn’t quite dig deep enough, resulting in a novel that always feels like it’s finally building up to the big event yet never does.
A gritty, unbalanced work that has its head in the stars but its feet firmly on 21st-century Earth.