If you are a military veteran, I think you’ll be able to associate with this story very, very well. It’s really about a young man and some other young people, who are drafted into the Human Defense Forces (HDF). Notice I wrote, Human Defense Forces, not Earth Defense Forces or Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. These people are mandatorily drafted upon their 18th year to defend humanity against an evil threat from another galaxy. Fifty years ago, the scolopendra titanite, better known as scum, attacked Earth for no known reason other than they were out to exterminate all other species in the galaxy. That surprise attack killed almost sixty percent of the humans on Earth. For the last fifty years, humanity has been fighting back. We managed to drop a nuclear bomb on the scums home world which told them we would not go away quietly. A kind of stalemate has evolved since then with occasional attacks by the scum while humanity made repeated attacks against them.
The scum were similar to Earth centipedes only they stood eight to ten feet tall when rising up. They also had a hard shell that was stronger than steel with razor sharp claws on their top most legs. They also were toxic to humans in every way possible. The scum could be killed, but not very easily. It was the job of the Human Defense Force to kill scum or die, preferably the former. Marco Emery was a writer and a librarian, definitely not a soldier. But, he was now eighteen and had to enlist in the HDF or face five years in a prison. When your very planet is being attack constantly, you don’t get a choice to take the easy way out. Everyone joined the HDF at eighteen and served for five years.
This story is about Marco’s journey through his initial military in processing and then through basic training. It is brutal as is all basic training. You have to take a civilian who has been taught from birth that killing and violence is not the way normal people act and turn them into soldiers who kill by instinct! Not an easy task. It is easier in that all humans have a desire at some level to kill scum, but not all humans embrace violence. Marco does not, but he has seen his own mother killed and eaten by the scum, so he’s ready to kill his share, still, he’s not ready to be a soldier.
This book will bring back memories of your own in-processing to military life. It writes about the confusion and doubts every young man or woman feels about themselves. Your faced with a strange environment where no one seems to be your friend. Everyone is telling you to do something all the time. You don’t get to sleep, you don’t get to rest and you don’t get to do anything you’ve done in the past. They want you to forget your past. They will break you down and then build you up as a new person, a soldier, ready to kill scum. The training is tough, very tough, but it’s no where near as bad as the actual fighting. And, after all his training, he’s going to get it tested immediately.
I like the way this writer writes. He has a good grasp on how the military operates. While not everything about his picture of military basic training is entirely accurate, enough of it is that makes you remember what you went through if you had to go through something similar. There is no way anyone can be trained to really know the horrors of war. It is beyond human understanding until they’re in the middle of it. The author did a good job of trying to show just how bad it can get and why you need trained soldiers.
I’m ready to read the next book, Earth Lost and then Earth Rising. I hope they are both as good as this first one.