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5 Small Stars
I like these kind of books where it takes a young person doing what he or she would normally do and turns them into a warrior.  Only, this time it’s not done under the best of circumstances.  James Alfred Maddox was born on Genesis-526, a dirt-ball of a planet with nothing going for it.  He’s a terraform engineer  which is a better way of saying he digs in the dirt!  He also a “tuber” having been born in a test tube just for the purposes of doing what he’s doing now.  He’s nineteen and going to get real old doing the same thing everyday if something doesn’t change.
And that change comes one day after he just barely save his own life from a horrendous accident caused by a Federation troop transport that lands on Genesis-526.  James’ part of the galaxy is ruled by the Federation.  They control everything and everyone.  Now they have come to exert even further control over some of the young men from Genesis-526.  He’s conscripted into the Federation military.  At least that means he’ll be getting off this planet and seeing something else for a change.  He doesn’t realize that the changes awaiting him are pretty dangerous.
During the in-processing, James is shoved from one place to another aboard the troop carrier, a huge Federation ship.  He’s been conscripted into the Federation military.  Without any kind of pedigree, James is headed for the Federation Ground Forces.  Federation Ground Forces were cannon fodder, plain and simple.  Out of whatever number they sent in to fight the ground battle, usually only 7 percent survived; 7 out of 100!  That’s not very good odds.
But, if you qualified as a Mech Pilot, then you’d be on your way to becoming and Officer and have a much better chance of surviving a battle since you’d be safely cocooned in a steel behemoth that was about twenty feet tall.  Still, the chances of James Maddox becoming a Mech pilot were about nonexistent until he was thrown into a Mech simulator like everyone else.  He goes through the simulation feeling like he’s in the middle of a major battle and has no clue as to what is going on or what he’s supposed to do.  He doesn’t survive!  But, of course, this was just a simulation.
Once out of the sim, and still in the in-processing phase, he gets into trouble and winds up in the brig.  Then a young female officer opens his cell door and asks if he would like a chance to become a Mech Pilot!  It seems like his sim scores were off the charts for someone that’s never been trained to operate a Mech.  Of course, James isn’t stupid so he agrees to go through Mech training knowing that all the other Mech trainees will have come from an Academy specifically meant to prepare them for this training.  He’s far behind his peers and not sure he can make the grade.  Then things get worse for him.
This was a pretty good story, but I’m not sure where it’s going to go.  James isn’t very experience with life and seems to kind of go bonkers when a female shows any kind of interest in him, be it good interest or bad.  As a “tuber” he’s not well received by his classmates who have all come through mostly elite parents solid members of the Federation.  James doesn’t know what the Federation is about and doesn’t know why he would want to fight for it over some other cause.  This almost seems like James is turning into a pacifist and that’s not good for someone going into battle.
I will continue reading this story, but I hope James gets a little more backbone.  He seems too meek for me and gets pulled around a lot by the women he meets.  Of course, he’s only 19 so that’s not much different than most 19 year olds, now is it!

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