I really would liked to have given this story all 5 stars, but I just couldn’t because of a couple of reasons. I’ll get into them as I write this review. The previous series with Staff Sergeant Vanhorn was an excellent series that started and stopped after what he did was done and over. If you’ll remember, SSG Eli Vanhorn was a very injured Terrestrial Advance Combat Marine (TAC Marine) who was retained on active duty but relegated to admin or support roles. In fact, on the ship he sailed to Leonis B, he was assigned as an armorer and just issued weapons and gear to the actual TAC platoon. He was not supposed to see combat every again.
But, as you know, that ship got immediately shot down. SSG Vanhorn and Corporal Beatrix (Trix) Finnegan survived the destruction of their ship when the armory they were in was ejected from the ship and crash landed on Leonis B. From that point on, it was mostly SSG Vanhorn taking the fight to the Orrkasi (Orcs). He fought brilliantly managing to save a large portion of the S. F. Rihla and he had the first human encounter with the Alethians. But that action is long over and the Fleet had removed all the survivors and established a semi-permanent base on Leonis B to protect the mining activities that were springing up daily.
SSG Vanhorn had retired since the Marines really didn’t want him around. He wasn’t necessarily rewarded for his actions on Leonis B since it would have made the Marine Corps seem a little incompetent by having classified this TAC Marine as disabled and incapable of fighting. But fight he did until the Orrkasi were driven off the planet. Vanhorn decided to stay on Leonis B. out of the Marines and living up in the hills with his friend Mook, a four-legged Polytrot alien, who now had a family. Vanhorn and Mook had just naturally teamed up together to fight the Orcs which had taken most of Mook’s friends captive and using them as slave miners. But now, everything was quiet and Eli and Mook were enjoying their peace in the mountains. Then Vanhorn went to town.
Here’s where he was summoned to Colonel Tsamir’s office. There he saw Corporal Finnegan. He and she were subsequently told that they had a new mission. Corporal Finnegan was still on active duty and part of the TAC platoon on Leonis B. Vanhorn however considered himself retired, but he was reminded that he was subject to recall at any time and that time was now. The Colonel informed both that they were being promoted, Vanhorn to Gunnery Sergeant and Finnegan to Sergeant. Then they listened to a highly classified briefing from the Commandant of the Marine Corps herself.
Their mission was to board a highly secret stealth ship built with Alethian technology and to proceed to Orrkasi space and land on their home world. On the Orc’s home world, they were to scout around to see if there were any human prisoners or other aliens being held prisoner and report that info to the Fleet. If such did exist, the Fleet would send a large contingent of Marines to get those prisoners free and returned to human or other alien custody. They were then to thoroughly bomb the entire planet.
Of course Gunnery Sergeant Vanhorn is not pleased! He thinks this is a suicide mission since the Orrkasi home world will probably have thousands if not millions of their Orc warriors all over the place. Even if his platoon of three squads has Alethian stealth armor, there’s no guarantee they still won’t be detected. Yet, for some reason the Alethians had specifically asked for Vanhorn and Finnegan to be part of this mission. So he was stuck.
Right here is where things go stupid. No one in their right mind would consider sending a platoon of thirty Marines to an enemies home world for scouting purposes. They won’t have any transportation so how are they supposed to cover any ground. There is little Intel on this planet and the little Intel they were given was closely held by the platoon leader, a Lieutenant (LT) Masterson. This LT was a TAC Marine fully qualified, but probably not very experienced. And then he started getting annoyed that Vanhorn and Finnagen were assigned to his platoon without his approval even if it did come from the Commandant of the Marines. This situation would never have happened. They have no specific target(s) on the planet, don’t know where the prisoners might be held or even how many Orcs might be protecting the planet. This mission is just too large in scope for one platoon and then the platoon is too large for the mission. The job would be better done with a few highly trained TAC Marines not more than ten plus at least a Marine Captain. I don’t know why this whole story was setup with this kind of impossible mission.
The rest of the book will talk about how the mission went to include the problem with the Lieutenant. He’s not what you would expect from a TAC Marine officer or any officer. His Platoon Sergeant Grissom isn’t much better, but the LT doesn’t listen to anyone so that’s not actual his fault. Yet, both he and Vanhorn still follow orders even though those orders could easily get them and everyone else killed. I just don’t think an elite force like this should have any kind of the problems the writer throws into this story.
So, is it a good book, well, yes, it’s about Marines fighting against long odds. It’s also about a scouting mission and things they have to engage the enemy which is completely idiotic thinking. And then, to make the book really disappointing is the fact the author didn’t finish it. Yes, the book quits in the middle of the mission! Not typical of previous Toby Neighbor books. I’ll still continue reading the series with book 2, “Evade” already on my reading list.