by W.C. Bauers
Reviewed by Richard Saar
Full disclosure up front: military sci-fi is my secret addiction, specifically the boots on the ground kind. Give me Aliens (the second and easily the best one), Starship Troopers, Iain M Banks (smart missiles are so freaking cool) or indeed any future war story and I’m there on the ground with the troops and their exotic weapons. So when I was offered W.C. Bauers’ debut novel Unbreakable for review I didn’t hesitate as it promised to satisfy my addiction.
The story is set around a female protagonist, Promise T. Paen, who was born and raised on Montana; an outer colony planet of the Republic of Aligned Worlds. It’s a planet that takes after its namesake, a mostly pacifist idyllic pastoral world.
However, Montana sits on the border between the Republic and their chief rival, the Lusitanian Empire. It's a rivalry that places the planet and its occupants in a precarious situation, especially since the Republic is only nominally interested and the people of Montana are pretty much on their own.
It’s on Montana where we first meet Promise, living peacefully on a farm with her Father as they both struggle to cope with the sudden illness and death of her Mother. Promise is out in the fields when a gang of Pirates raid her property, she returns in time to see her father murdered, but was unable to do anything about it.
Promise leaves Montana behind after this traumatic event and joins up with the Republic Marine Corps, seeking a measure of revenge by killing as many pirates as she can. So, unsurprisingly she’s not really happy with being hand-picked to go back home and see off some local unrest; little does she know the unrest is the first actions by the Lusitanian Empire to destabilise and then take control of Montana for themselves.
She soon finds herself fighting a rear-guard action with no help coming from her own RAW-MC commanders and has to mould the peaceful people of Montana into an effective militia to outwit and outlast the superior Lusitanian force.
It's a great set-up for some solid Sci-Fi military action and Bauers certainly doesn’t disappoint in that regard. We’ve got all of the elements we'd want to see, awesome future Marine tech with armour suits and hugely destructive guns. What we’ve also got is a good amount of tactical and political discussion which tempers the all-out action segments and something that gives a bit of light and shade that is often missing in the military sci-fi genre.
As you’d expect from a military action piece, the characterisations are often quite thin with only a handful of the main characters getting any real development, Promise is clearly the star and most of the development is given to her character, but then it’s what I’d expect from an action packed novel like this and it didn’t really bother me greatly.
The battle sequences are the real star here; realistic, well as much as battles between space marines can be. Bauers balances the technology of the Marines well, it never feels like it overpowers the action. These Marines can’t just rely on their amazing weapons; they have to rely on grit, determination and cunning more than anything else.
I do have to admit that I had a hard time getting started with this book, the opening is a bit tedious and honestly I stopped a few times before I got through it. Hard to pin down why, but it’s probably got something to do with our introduction to Promise and the conversations she’s having with her death mother in her mind… a bit odd and hard to get past.
Make sure you do push through the first chapter though because that slow awkward start pays off with a really cracking, action packed, sci-fi military action story. I really did race through this in a few days, and I wanted more. This was just an opening salvo in a much larger war and I’m keen to see the story expand into the universe Bauers has created.
Source: Supplied in e-book format via Netgalley
IBR Rating: ★★★★
Recommendation: A must read for fans of military Sci-Fi particularly and Sci-Fi in general, its a fast paced, action filled book that's a great début effort.