After an all-too lengthy hiatus, our Book of the Month Club is back.  Let me get the ball rolling by offering up my thoughts on this month’s title…

1Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos

The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to two thousand calories of badly flavored soy every day:

You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service.

With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price…and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.

Military SF in the vein of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War but minus Scalzi’s trademark humor and colorful characters.  To be fair, Scalzi is in a class all his own and the comparison is perhaps unfair, but Terms of Enlistment invites it on the similarities of its narrative elements and the strength of its highly detailed, wholly involving extended action sequences.  In the case of the latter, it brings to mind another stylistically similar, equally engaging military SF series: David Weber’s Honor Harrington books.  Kloos is at his very best in the heat of battle.  Whether its street-level urban combat, engagements against aliens on off-world terrain, or space-based skirmishes, he does a masterful job immersing the reader in the various conflicts. And the fact that these varied conflicts comprise fully the last two-thirds of the novel makes for some very compelling reading.  However –

Getting there is a bit of a chore because the first (battle-free) third of the book, from our hero’s introduction through his military training, is frustratingly deficient in characterization.  We are introduced to our protagonist, Andrew Grayson, his motivations for enlisting (to escape a life of Earth-bound poverty), his relationship with mother (he loves her) and father (he hates him), but aren’t offered much beyond these fairly broad strokes.  He undergoes intense training, meets a fellow cadet, tries his best not to fall in love, misses her when she’s assigned to a different branch – but it’s a lot of surface with little depth.  And consistently serious.  Just a touch of humor would have gone a long way towards humanizing these characters and making them more appealing.   The same goes for the supporting players, cadets and veterans mostly distinguished by their physical traits, who come and go with no real consequence.  It’s hard to grieve for someone you never really knew, and just as hard to root for someone you fail to connect with.  As a result, the horrors of war depicted later in the book don’t resonate as strongly, landing more on the side of viscerally alarming than emotionally impactful, while the chapters dedicated to Andrew’s time in training feel like a long rev in low gear.  But –

When Andrew is finally stationed Earthside, things really pick up, and not just in terms of the action.  Beyond the life or death stakes are the moral implications of urban warfare against one’s fellow citizens and the ethical grey zone of collateral damage.  I say “ethical grey zone” because, at one point in the novel, Andrew uses lethal – it could be argued excessive – force to take out an enemy sniper, killing many innocents in the process.  In his mind, he was justified.  His superiors, however, are somewhat less inclined to forgive his actions slide because of the optics are so bad.  It’s an interesting issue that gets resolved all too quickly and Andrew is shipped off into space to continue his service.  It feels like a missed opportunity and emblematic of the book as a whole.  Kloos is a terrific writer and the pieces are there for a riveting, deeply resonating masterpiece of military SF, but Terms of Enlistment never rises to its full potential.  Once we’re into the meat of the story, it’s fast-paced and absorbing, but never poignant or thought-provoking.

Overall, an enjoyable read but not one that stayed with me.

So, what did you all think?  Let’s discuss.

28 thoughts on “March 3, 2014: The Book of the Month Club reconvenes! Let’s discuss Terms of Enlistment!

  1. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to read this one, but I do know it sounds like some books that I have read where they just start off way too slow – and I wind up losing interest. And like you say, I don’t like books that are monotonously serious. Realistically, even in the most dire circumstances people will find humour, so an approach like that doesn’t match up with real life. Plus, it’s boring. It kind of sounds like many movies, where the general idea was good and has a lot of potential, but the execution is often off.

    Looking forward to staring “Annihilation”, I’ve read a few reviews of it which were mostly pretty positive.

  2. I enjoyed the book. But I have to agree about the use of lethal force. It seemed to clean to me, one minute he is under arrest almost brought up on charges the next he is given a navy assignment that most people would kill for.

  3. I didn’t get my hands on the book until last night and I just finished reading it 20 minutes ago. Agree with most of Joe’s points. There’s not a lot of depth to the characters but it’s a brisk read that carries you along. I did enjoy the action sequences and Kloos does a decent job of immersing you in military life and the pace of warfare. Enjoyed it enough that I will grab his other books and novellas and give them a shot. I’ll go with a grade of B-. Don’t know if it’s going to be something I pick up again in a year or so like I did with Scalzi’s series but we’ll see.

  4. This was an interesting book, although not my particular taste. Yes, I voted for it. However, I was expecting something similar to The Marian Chronicles By Bradbury. I thought that the story was very close to Starship Troopers with the freestyle mixing of the sexes, the battles with aliens and the girlfriend who ends up piloting a spacecraft.

    As I read the story, written in the first person, I thought that it would be interesting to avoid telling us the sex of the protagonist, then, let us determine for ourselves whether the protagonist was male or female.

    I also noticed about half way through the novel, Kloos used, “Where’s the Kaboom? There should have been an Earth shattering Kaboom!” It would seem that Marvin The Martian from Bugs Bunny survived into the 22nd century. It seemed like Loos got lazy and lifted this from a cartoon. Plagiarism or purposeful to the story, I couldn’t decide.

    The concept of overpopulation leading to abject poverty is not a new one in literature and the way that it was dealt with was believable. However, Grayson’s regular coincidental good luck stretched credulity. If my life was anything like his, I would likely have won the lottery by now.

    I also wonder if he has set up the plot to continue in a book two. Earth’s military is about to nuke a world being claimed by an alien species. They might not appreciate that too much and start looking for the perpetrators.

    That’s my two cents on Terms of Enlistment.

  5. I agree with everything you said Joey . But I’ll be a little more forgiving.
    The first third of the book, suffers from characters without relief during training camp about everything. This seems to me, more a professional deformation , since Kloos as a former instructor NCO from the Heer ( Bundeswehr ) can not avoid showing us, his military vision, here denoted in the treatment of recruits. which sergeants can not see them but as moldable material that will not be true soldiers until they pass the ordeal and are transmuted in efficient inventory assets
    . But in his defense. I think, knowing that after several rejections by publishers began to sell the book on amazon as autopublishing without review by any professional editor, the end result is not negligible. I agree to appreciate its qualities as a writer fast paced & easy to read that dominates movements in three dimensional space battles . But having read the seconfd book “Lines of Departure” this really professionally edited and is more homogeneous from beginning to end of the book. Seems much better than the first. I must say that if I give Kloos more opportunities to entertain me .
    That said a little humor here and there, would not hurt . 😆

  6. The comparisons to Scalzi are inevitable, though Scalzi’s Earth is nowhere near the dystopia that Kloos’ Earth is. The introduction to our protagonist seems more drawn out than needed, though it gives us an overview of how … unpleasant life is for so many people. And I was frustrated that after showing us the underbelly of society, that he shifted into space while only hinting at what life was like for the “upper” classes. Nor is there any effort to flesh out this world by touching on the economics. If the vast majority of people are trapped in these cities, how can the government sustain both a military and a colonization effort, especially with competing political entities? If these slums are the exception, how many people are we talking about living on the planet?
    I give Kloos credit for not making his main character a superman. Grayson is above average by definition, simply for making it out of the slums. But he’s not a natural leader, not an instant expert at whatever he puts his hand to. Instead, he develops his skills the old fashioned way of working at it.
    I did find his tour of service on Earth to be interesting, though again, we don’t get enough of a view of the wider world. And the other military characters are a bit too cardboard cut for my taste. The overkill incident you refer to was definitely a lost opportunity. A little real remorse, a little more suspense as to Grayson’s fate would have been welcome. Instead, he not only avoids trial, but finds himself finds himself in a strangely generic job that allows him to enjoy relations with someone who is considerably higher up the rank structure than he is, even if they are not in the same chain of command.
    The end of the book was moderately more interesting, enough to let me forgive him for what seem to be a lot of really lucky coincidences to escape. I haven’t decided yet if I will go for the sequel, which seems inevitable from the books ending.
    So, I’ll give it a 6/10. Good enough to read to the end, but not a book I felt I could not put down. Indeed, I got quite a lot done in between opportunities to read a few pages or chapters.

  7. Kloos is huge on talent. And I say this because I found his main character uncompelling and unsympathetic, yet I was able to painlessly read his writing. I have the most uncooperative attention span ever and if I can read a story that I don’t care about, that’s some very talented prose right there.

    The first problem with this story was the main character. He hated his dad, but he came off as neutral and unattached toward his mom. Kloos went to little effort to get me to care about the things Grayson cared about, but what little he did, I had to distrust because if a guy can walk away from his mom and never look back, he can do that with any other element of the story that seems important. And he did. Again and again. That’s consistent, but it’s not the character I want to follow through a story.

    The other characters were, like Grayson, products of their environments and they made choices dictated by their circumstances. They were indistinct as a result. Somebody at least show up to muster with a goatee already. The lieutenant making a suicide run at the giant spire in the end was cool though — it’s pretty distinct to do something insane.

    It seemed like this Grayson, who had survived the projects by a combination of keeping his nose in a book and becoming part of that very isolated environment, faced an adventure just in realizing how the world really worked. He did, but there was more potential there to experience the soul-jarring effects of paradigm shifts along with him. I fell off the turnip truck once upon a time just like him and I was looking forward to comparing scars with him, but that didn’t happen. He hit the ground running and assimilated information as he went. There was more drama to be milked out of all that.

    The premise of this book had me hoping for more depth. There were hints at a rich political landscape, but Grayson was about keeping his head down and wasn’t going to chase after the reasons things were as they were.

    The action was incredibly well-written. It was flawless in terms of physics. It’s not easy to write this kind of action without some kind of plot-hole and the temptation is to summarize to avoid one, but he described play-by-plays for extended sequences without flaw. Even when the Wasp wasn’t supposed to be able to climb very high using the wrong fuel, then went up 20,000 feet in the atmosphere, it still made sense since they’d expended so much fuel by then. I can’t overemphasize how amazing it is to be able to write such extended action.

    But when someone wasn’t shooting at Grayson, there was most often no tension. He got along with people and had similar motivations as the people around him. None of the drill sergeants picked on him more than the others. His squad mates were amicable. Will this generic guy from the projects manage to keep eating good food? That’s not a formula for suspense.

    I really just need to see the main character have a motivation I can relate to and be pulled through the story by wondering if he’ll get what he wants. Once there’s motivation, there’s a reason he can’t have what he wants. There are people standing in his way and interpersonal tension results. The story gets tied together from the beginning to the end that way. What does Grayson want?

    But the talent to write in such a smooth way that I can still read the book and be decently entertained despite not having that tense thread pulling me through the story is special. What’s lacking can be learned. The talent to write like that can’t.

  8. Kinda busy, but will say this…

    While I agree with the slow build-up and great battle action, I have to disagree with your assessment that it’s “never poignant or thought-provoking”. I actually cried when he received his medals. Okay – maybe I was hormonal or something at the time – but that moment was sweet icing on the cake.

    Gotta run!


  9. I agree with you, Joe. It was an okay read.

    I didn’t have too much trouble with the start of the book, though I did keep hoping for a bit more character development. And less obsession with the food. I suppose it was one way to highlight the differences in society, but I would have rather had it done more through the characters. I thought the boot camp stuff was okay, but I kept comparing it in my mind to Old Man’s War. I wished the characters showed more growth than just getting fit and learning to shoot. He told us where all of them were from – but that was

    As for the characters, aside from the main character, Sergeant Fallon was probably the best developed character in the lot – and from skua’s comments above, I guess that makes sense. He told us where people were from, but then they became just so many “red shirts”.

    I’m not a serious military buff so the prolonged battle in Detroit kind of dragged for me after a while. Of course I have been know to fast forward through action scenes in movies, too. I just did it with Elysium.

    And I agree with those who have commented on Grayson’s convenient good luck. Especially with how he finally got off of Earth. But maybe that is how the military works…

    Things picked up for me once they were out in space. The shipboard stuff was decent – though I didn’t really have a feel for the ship except for Grayson’s room and the shuttle bay. I can’t close my eyes and picture how the ships look, inside or out.

    But I liked the Gulliver aliens.

    Just not enough to run out and pick up the next book.

  10. I too found the opening a little slow, but somewhat foundational so I wasn’t put off by it. The writing was smooth and conversational, so it was easy to advance through quite a bit of pages without feeling burdened.

    Yes, the character development was lacking, and the start slow, but I found the action in the last half to be engaging and it more than kept my interest. I put this in the category of a fun, but not a deep read. It was perfect for some of the traveling I’ve been doing recently.

    Since I come from a family with a lot of military service, I found Kloos’ treatment of military themes to be excellent and I personally appreciated it. His depth and understanding of military life shows in his writing. Believable military characters was one of the things that originally attracted me to Stargate SG-1, and I was glad to see it here as well. It kept me engaged enough that I bought his second book as well.

    On a scale of 1-10, I’d rate Terms of Enlistment 6.5 out of 10. On the second book, Lines of Departure, I’d rate that one a 7.5 out of 10; Marko Kloos’ writing is improving, and I’m interested in seeing where he takes it from here.

    @Sparrow_hawk and Das:

    I may have to pick up Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. I keep hearing about it, but I’ve never pulled the trigger.

  11. Hi all, just played catch-up on back blogs, so thought I’d introduce myself.
    I’m Patty, from Eastpointe, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Born and raised here. Fan of sports, especially the Olympics! (even with questionable judging at times) Been to two of them, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Enjoy Scifi, although it’s tough talking about it with anyone cuz most of my family and friends don’t enjoy it. Maybe I should get new ones?? 🙂
    Pet peeves: people who don’t know how to drive in snow, even though it’s been snowing all winter!
    Personality Quiz: weird, but i was the Christmas ornament. I can live with that.
    Sorry, but didn’t read this month’s book. Already have next month’s, though. Looking forward to reading it.
    Night all!
    Patty O

  12. I enjoyed the book overall, but it did take a long time to get moving. I was also somewhat taken aback at the way Andrew manipulated his having killed non-combatant civilians by way of serious overkill into getting himself transferred to another branch of the military – specifically the one his lover was assigned – and then further manipulated things to get himself assigned to her ship. There wasn’t really any downside or negative consequences to his actions up to that point, since everything worked out in his favor.

    The actual action sequences were well written and engaging, particularly the “urban warfare” in Detroit.

    I didn’t get the aliens and why they wanted to kill everyone. Either I missed something, or it was never mentioned. Generally, when this scenario is presented, there is some reasoning given as to why the aliens want everyone dead.

    However, I felt the ending was a bit of a let down, since so much was left unresolved. I suppose, though, that the ending was deliberate and done to entice readers to pick up the next “chapter” of the story.

    (Oh, and I got the Balti apron thing.)

  13. Yes, the first half of the book was slow. However, the storytelling flowed and that kept me going. I liked the book. The second book, “Lines of Departure” was more action packed. Some might like that better? I thought this book was similar to the “Forever War”. I liked both “Forever War” and Kloos books. So now I’ll have to read “Old Man’s War”!

    cat4444: I didn’t get the aliens and why they wanted to kill everyone. Maybe because we were unimportant to them? These aliens were so advanced, we must of have been an annoyance and not considered intelligent life.

    Patty O: Waves!

    Ice Storm 2014 is sucky! Once again, Olive Branch, Mississippi missed the worst of the storm. Memphis and the northern counties in Tennessee got the brunt. I’m thankful we never lost power, it could have been much worse. I’ll be glad when winter is over!

  14. The book was an ok read, I agree, but it was slow to go . I could read some and put it down, I did not like the ending, lacked something, and no I don’t think they should all live happily ever after, they all didn’t, a lot of not memorable characters didn’t make the ending. Maybe characters didn’t need developed, because they were short lived. The aliens were too convenient, or maybe I am just wanting more to explain the why and what and where about them. I even had my hubby read it, he said it was ok, but probably not something he would reread. > Joe, how do you find out about these books?> thanks for sharing.
    ~ Yes JeffW you should read Old Man’s War. Now that one, husb can read over and over and he has, I even sent copies of Old Mans War and that whole set to my son for a present.

  15. Good reviews from everyone! I agree with most of you.

    I’d literally read the Old Man’s War series for the first time just before starting Terms of Enlistment so comparisons were inevitable. I found the whole boot camp story quite clichéd but I’m sure that’s just because boot camp is like that and there’s not many other ways you could portray it.

    One aspect of the story I found refreshing (compared to Old Man’s War and Starship Troopers was the lack of antagonistic alien races (until the end of the book, anyway). All the aggressors for most of the story were fellow humans. As others have said, the moral aspects of humans killing other humans is downplayed or ignored but, if you think about it, humans have been killing other humans in large numbers for thousands of years so it’s not surprising that nothing has changed in the future.

    I’m intrigued by the alien race we encounter towards the end of the book. I don’t think they are intentionally aggressive towards humans. I think we are like ants to them, beyond their notice except as a minor annoyance. I will be reading the following book(s) in order to find out more about them. So much sci-fi revolves around alien races that are either very similar to humans (mentally, if not physically) or so alien as to be incomprehensible but ultimately humans come out on top. I’d like to see a story about what happens when humans discover that they are so weak and insignificant that they are not even noticed by other races.

    On the whole I enjoyed the book. It was easy to read (well, listen to, as I opted for the audio book) and didn’t require a lot of mental activity which is usually what I’m after in a book. As a bit of action packed mental bubblegum it’s as good as anything else I’ve read recently.

  16. @thornyrose01 – I did that, too, I made it a spacer for my to-do list and got a lot done.

    I have to say, I’ll be watching Kloos. If the few skills he needs to pick up happen, he could be my favorite writer.

    Again, it’s that I can read his writing painlessly. I have sooooo many interruptions with a house full of small kids, even after having learned to ignore the crashing sounds. I have a bad attention span to start with so constantly transition back to the reading is difficult. A writer who can give me a chance to overcome those challenges, well, he might be the only author I read from beginning to end for a while besides Barbie novels and the like. There are books that were worthy of being engrossed in that I have given up on before finishing because the frustration of interruption makes it not worth the effort – thus, I read a lot of blogs.

  17. Like others I found the start up slow. I also don’t really get the Aliens. Why do they just walk around and tear everything apart with their bare hands, I guess we can call them hands. They are space fairing yet they don’t carry any kind of weaponry on land. Along with complaints of character development I think the aliens fall in that category. Why does no one try and communicate with the them.

    Still I liked it and I have went ahead and read Lines of departure. Still no real alien development but as other said the action is pretty good so I will see where it goes.

  18. I would have liked it to spend more time on Earth. I thought the over population and social tensions more interesting than the alien invasion.

    More ramifications of Andrew using lethal force would have been nice. I agree that the resolution was a little too clean.

    I thought the alien invasion was too quick.

    You get the impression it’s trying to be The Forever War or Starship Troopers.

    That said, I enjoyed the book and have recently started reading the sequel.

  19. @ Sparrowhawk – I have to painfully admit that – being the shallow person that I am – the title ‘Old Man’s War’ does absolutely nothing to compel me to read the book. Now…maybe it if it was called ‘Young, Hawt Guy’s War’, or ‘Pale, Long-locked Dude’s War’, or even ‘Scottish Lads in Kilts’ War’, then maybe I’d give it a go.

    As far as humor goes in ToE I did have a chuckle or two. I also enjoyed the military training stuff. While I may have enjoyed a bit more character devel, this book reminded me of first-person Naval accounts I’ve read from the 18th and 19th centuries. More facts than emotion – almost diary-like – put down to paper by someone who guards his feelings well. That was my impression of Grayson – someone who took life as it came, never over-analyzing it, and never getting too emotionally caught up in anything. I kinda liked it, actually.

    Why? Well, for the past few months I’ve read the Hamish Macbeth series – light, cozy mysteries. Hamish, however, always has some inner turmoil going on over relationships or mistakes, and after a bit I get tired of ‘hearing’ it. Oddly enough, for as much as I like the broody sorts, Grayson was a breath of fresh air for me. He let me see his world with just enough detail to paint a clear picture without muddling it all up with unnecessary detail. I could easily ‘see’ his environs, wherever he went. And though he worried about a few things he did not do so ad nauseam, telling me that he was the type of person who was aware of negative consequences, but that he didn’t allow doubts or second-guessing to interfere with what he had to do. Overall, he came across as someone who had long ago learned how to adapt in order to survive, and that adaptation was second nature to him.

    I liked it a lot. So did Mr. Das – he’s eager to read the next one. We both loved the build up to the end battle, too. After the Detroit battle I really wondered how Kloos could top it, but he did. I think Mr. Das and I both ‘squeeeeed!’ aloud when we got to the aliens. 🙂 Also, I was grateful that the sexual content was not explicit, and that the use of explicit language was appropriately paced throughout and not overdone to the point of distraction.

    With the exception of the slow set-up (home life, not military), I though the book was well-paced, well-balanced, and quite exciting.


  20. Overall I enjoyed the read. Agree that it suffered from a lack of humor and could have used a bit more character development. One of the things I enjoyed was the fact that he was given an earth bound deployment in the beginning. I actually wouldn’t have minded if he’d been earth bound for the whole book. His advancement to the Navy felt rushed and bit out of place. Also agree with the fact that military tribunal for his use of excessive force should have been fleshed out more. The end of the book does have a bit of an anti-climactic feel, but I felt it fit the over matter of fact feel of the book. I’d give the book a 6 out of 10. While I enjoyed the read, not sure if I’d read it again.

    @JeffW thanks for your rating on the 2nd book as I was looking at picking it up. Also if you gave this book a 6, definitely read the Old Man Wars series, you will love it. I’ve read it 5 times and still enjoy it as much as the first time I read it.

  21. I was a little confused. I found the sequence in Detroit surprisingly engaging (surprising as I’m not always so into action sequences) and it was mentioned a few times that the weapons that the residents had were far superior to what was expected. I thought maybe he was going to uncover some kind of secregovernment plot designed to keep the masses in their place and I was glad to have some focus for the story since it had taken a while to get there (although, again it wasn’t a difficult read) but then the main character got transferred and suddenly the story was about something else altogether. I kept waiting for the plot to come together and blow my mind somehow but it didn’t. It just ended. WTF? I think I was a little annoyed that I had finally become so interested in the story and it completely switched gears and then just ended. It felt like it had a lot more potential and I was profoundly disappointed.

  22. I forgot to mention, I liked the present tense style of writing in ToE. It’s very rare but I like it whenever I come across it. It gives a sort of immediacy to the action. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is a fine example of it.

    Re: Old Man’s War – I enjoyed it and it was an interesting premise but I wouldn’t rave about it. Perhaps it was soured by Zoe’s Tale which is basically just a retelling of the previous book from a different point of view. I was expecting much more probing of the ethics of taking old people and giving them new bodies for the sole purpose of fighting a war. Not to mention the Colonial Defense Force’s xenophobia.

  23. I really enjoyed Terms of Enlistment and I read it in one lo-o-ong day. Yes, there were moments of incredulity and some easy outs, but I was forgiving because the insider view of military life was absorbing. And this was a new author after all. I frankly didn’t care that the main character failed to connect to many other people. I took it as being due to a childhood spent buried in books, stubbornly refusing to go with the flow and turn into a predatory thug. He formed a dream early in life, to escape a miserable existence on Earth and by golly, he realized his dream. I choked up at points, and cringed in others, but I read that book in a devouring manner. That doesn’t happen very often. I’m more likely to begin a book, lose interest and never complete it.

    I also placed a pre-purchase order on his (yet to be released at the time) sequel, Lines of Departure. While I didn’t read this one quite as quickly, I did thoroughly enjoy it too — go read it!

    I guess I don’t usually analyze a good read. I expect a good story to hold my attention with well drawn descriptions that transport me into the scene or created world. I want the the story to be written with passion and intelligence. I always hope to feel emotionally invested too, don’t we all? I do think this book succeeded on all these counts. I will be expecting more and greater things from Mr. Kloos, and I’ll bet he won’t disappoint!

    Scalzi’s Old Man’s War is also a fine read.


  24. Sorry for my late entrance into the discussion, but I had to study for the last couple of days for a test at work. But I did finish the book early this weekend. It was a pleasure to read. As I might have mentioned I was engaged in a much heavy book in subject and in narratives structure. While the same in length it was much denser. It some interesting “A World Restored” taking about a hundred years past can be relevant to today. But, this book went by quickly.

    My first impressions on the novel were that it reminded me of Blade Runner and Starship Trouper. It beginning was dark and depressing but not so drenching. Yet the Boot Camp was seeming laid back, but without the sadistic training with live ammo. (I read a biography of an air force pilot who following a training crash of the top student who die in agony after the author pulled him from the crumpled wreckage, the instructor said to him hurry up your next.) In some, of his descriptions of weaponry, that seemed not to be too far fetched as in tactical suits and the of the TA rifle (m-66). The author was able to convey with some authority the live of training and the tactical activity of the squad. I did have some puzzlement over the fact that this junior squad member seemed to think the rioters were being supplied by an outside under ground source but there was no resolution of that thread. I thought the use of over 2/3 of the novel to come to the climatic event was a bit underwhelming.

    This book had many mysteries that went unsolved or unexamined in depth.
    I did enjoy your read on the novel as I agreed with may points. In fact I agreed with may of the comments above. Like 2cats memtioned I normally do not analysis novels I have read. This perhaps being a first, or second time. I did enjoy it.

  25. “Of all the metroplexes in the country, Detroit is the worst.”

    I’m going to have a problem with a book when I find a sentence like that in it. Why is it always Detroit? Hasn’t Detroit suffered enough? Hundreds of years in the future, Detroit STILL is the poorest, most violent city in North America? Why can’t the shitty metroplex be Winnipeg? Or Saint Louis? Or Houston?

    Despite having pissed off this girl from the D, the book did have some redeeming qualities. As others have mentioned, the action scenes are really well written. For the most part, you can picture the spaces in your head and really see the events as they’re unfolding, and this does a lot to boost the enjoyment of an otherwise lacklustre and soulless story.

    I had a real problem with the characterizations in this book, and the protagonist is no exception. We’re in the head of Andrew Grayson as he relays his first-person narrative, but I don’t feel I really know him. For one thing, his thoughts at times totally contradict each other: when he’s living in the PRC with his mom, he appears to love her enough to take the trouble to make sure she will have something special (a bit of real food) after he’s gone, but then when he’s aboard the shuttle taking off from Boston and off to boot camp, he doesn’t bother to look out the window at his home falling away forever. Rather, he tells us, “If the Sino-Russian Alliance nuked the place right this moment, and I saw the fireball light up the night sky behind the shuttle, I wouldn’t feel a thing.” Uh, what? Your mom’s down there, dude!

    Then, as N mentioned, during the battle of Detroit, it is emphasized several times that the rioters have more sophisticated weapons than one would expect if it were just your average everyday welfare riot. But when the battle’s over, there’s no follow-up to that idea. Grayson seems to never think about it again. If he’s so incurious as to ignore something obviously fishy, then why should I care about him?

    Another problem I had was the relationship between Grayson and Halley. At boot camp, the bunk assignments are alphabetical. So was it like “Oh look, our last names are alphabetically proximal. That makes us bunkmates! I guess it also makes us fuck buddies!” Really? It just so happens that the person sleeping above his bunk is someone he finds sexually compatible and who also happens to find him worthwhile? Please. But even if I accept that coincidence, what is the basis of their relationship? I can maybe understand if they were just fuck buddies at boot camp, but they continue to stay in touch, even when there’s little reason to think they’ll even see one another for the next 5 years. Why? From their emailed exchanges, it appears they only talk about how their careers are progressing, never about how they feel about life, the universe, each other…. In fact, when Grayson is under threat of court martial, he elects NOT to write to Halley about how he feels conflicted about the collateral damage he perpetrated by bombing a residential building in Detroit and killing dozens of innocent people. He explains his reticence by saying he’d like to wait and talk to her in person. But then we never see that conversation! How would she react to what he did? Would he finally break down in the retelling of it, with the weight of his conscience? Here was an opportunity to make me care about Grayson and to understand their relationship, but Kloos seems to have completely forgotten that thread by the time Grayson meets up with Halley in person.

    As for the rest of the characters, they may as well be set dressing. At Grayson’s lunch table at boot camp, he sits with the same 5 people every day, and we only hear from 2 of them, Halley and Ricci. The other three are described in physicality only; they may as well not exist. Why do these 6 people congregate at the same lunch table every day? What do they like about one another? Who knows? And this problem persists through every new setting in which Grayson finds himself. He has “friends,” but we never know them as anything other than abstractions. And when abstractions die in battle, it’s hardly tragic or moving.

    There are odd narrative contradictions too, which took me out of the story and made me think this book needed a better editor: (1) Grayson tells us that the stairways in the PRC are the most dangerous places, being where all the hood rats hang out to mug people violently. But later, at boot camp, the platoon is taken for its first real run, and Grayson tells us he’s confident in his fitness, since he’s been “running the staircases back at our residence cluster for the last three months in preparation for military training.” How is that possible, if the only time we’ve seen him navigate a PRC staircase, he opened the door a crack, listened for hood rats, and then went down the stairs as quickly as humanly possible? “Running the staircases” implies an entire workout, and certainly not a quiet enough one to be able to hear highly motivated hood rats approaching with mischief on their minds. (2) The aliens presumably “fumigated” the colony on Willoughby, killing all the colonists without destroying any of the buildings. So why, then, do they mount a ground assault on the terraforming compound, pulling down giant, reinforced concrete structures with their bare hands? They could have just fumigated the terraforming compound without ever getting near the place. Or just left it alone, considering that their own terraforming apparatus was already transforming the planet to their specifications, quickly erasing the effects of the human terraforming efforts. And as MikeP said, weapons (which they obviously have, as they brought down a starship) would have been much more efficient.

    Finally, the ending leaves much to be desired. The story just stops. Clearly, this is all a set-up for the next novel in the series, but each book in a series should be a stand-alone work. The characters should progress through an arc of some sort, leaving the book as transformed people from how they started it. I don’t get the sense that Grayson is transformed at all, mostly because we never really hear his feelings voiced; we only see events as they unfold in front of his eyes. This makes the novel really a series of disjointed short stories: the “home” vignette; the “boot camp” vignette; the “Detroit” vignette; the “hospital” vignette; and so on, with little flow between these and the only through line being Grayson’s physical presence in each setting. If Grayson took away from each of these vignettes something that helped him later on, or changed him as a person over the course of the book, the novel would have been much more fulfilling.

    All in all, a mindless read, sometimes entertaining (especially during the battles), but ultimately unsatisfying and forgettable.

  26. I read both books, so there may be spoilers for both books this comment.

    The first book, rules of enlistment was okay but over hyped by the media, certainly good foundations to build the world on, but as others have pointed out, it lacks details and depth. There plenty to explore in this universe.

    I enjoy the details given the battle scenes and military training. By far the best part of the book.

    But as they say writing about what you know only gets you so far when you are building a universe, and details are a bit light out side of the military context. I wanted to know what created this world, what were the causes of it troubles, who are the people in power, the politics, even the war between West vs East.

    I’m not surprise Garry escape responsibility for his actions, blowing up a tower full of civilians, it seems no one in the military or in the government in this world takes responsibility for anything. An secrecy and manipulation and control seem to take priority for the government over wealth fare of its citizens and even following it own laws. Which emphasize in the next book.

    The second book give more detail to this universe, we see more of his mother and added depth to their relationship. I think Garry shows maturity and weakening of his training and a more questioning attitude. I hope we get more politics in the next book. In the second book Garry moves away from just being a solder to being more of a leader, and I certainly hope we see him getting more involve in the politics of this world.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.