The Light Brigade

Given how much I enjoyed Kameron Hurley's Apocalypse Nyx in 2018 and her collection of short stories, Meet Me in the Future, in 2019, I was eager to sink my teeth into the author's latest novel-length project. Both of these works demonstrated yet again just how gifted and unique an author Hurley truly is, so I was looking forward to reading The Light Brigade.

And I'm pleased to report that the novel is another gritty and quality science fiction yarn with its own take on time-travel.

Here's the blurb:

From the Hugo Award­­–winning author of The Stars Are Legion comes a brand-new science fiction thriller about a futuristic war during which soldiers are broken down into light in order to get them to the front lines on Mars.

They said the war would turn us into light.
I wanted to be counted among the heroes who gave us this better world.

The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back…different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief—no matter what actually happens during combat.

Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think is going on.

Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero—or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference.

A worthy successor to classic stories like Downbelow Station, Starship Troopers, and The Forever War, The Light Brigade is award-winning author Kameron Hurley’s gritty time-bending take on the future of war.

Mega-corporations now rule the Earth. Known as the Big Six, they are at war with colonists from Mars. These Martians, human beings whose separatist movement saw them go their own way years before, have rebelled and returned home to our planet, only to unleash a shocking attack that vaporized Sao Paulo. Countless young men and women are being recruited into the corporate armies to be turned into light and transported to Mars and various locations on Earth to engage the enemy. Such is the premise of Hurley's military science fiction tale.

The Light Brigade features the first person narrative of Dietz, a typical idealistic female recruit. She's a girl from Sao Paulo with a troubled background who wants to go to war to make a difference and make the Martians pay for destroying her home. Every soldiers experiences the light jumps in his or her own way, but things are radically different for Dietz. Her first drop with earn her the nickname Bad Luck Dietz and subsequent jumps only get weirder. As impossible as it sounds, it appears that she is getting beamed to different futures and at disparate spots across the war's timeline. As she begins to question her sanity, it also dawns upon her that there is more here than meets the eye.

The first portion of the novel focuses on the recruitment and then the basic training of Dietz. To a certain extent, that part reads like a more modern version of Heinlein's Starship Troopers. The second portion focuses more on Dietz's many jumps and their repercussions on her and her fellow soldiers. Little by little, we start to get a better understanding of what could be the bigger picture. That there is more to the war than the corporations let on and that everything is more complex than first believed. And with each new light jump, Dietz gets a bit closer to the truth.

Hurley explores a number of themes and issues that are relevent in the real world today such as the futility of war, the evils of corporate culture, propaganda in the media and fake news, social standing based on race and culture and education, the atrocities soldiers are forced to go through in the name of a false greater good, etc.

The pace may lack fluidity in certain portions of the book, yet the rhythm remains good throughout. Hurley brings all the different timelines together in a clever and satisfying finale, closing the show with aplomb. The Light Brigade is another solid effort and a terrific read.

The final verdict: 8/10

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