This is one of my favorite series. I like reading stories about personal soldiers, sailors and Marines. In this one we get very personal with SSG Vanhorn who is not only a Marine, but a Terrestrial Advance Combat (TAC) Marine. He was also a disable veteran of several recent battles. His initial assignment aboard the Fleet Ship Rhila was as the Armorer for the TAC Marine detachment. This meant that he wasn’t to see ground combat at all. Yet, as you’ve read, that ship was meant to explore this new system and then report back to Earth their findings about the planets they found. Yet, before they could come to a stable orbit around Leonis B, the ship was shot at and destroyed by the Orrkasi. Prior to this, they Earth wasn’t aware that the Orrkasi had developed a ground based weapon capable of shooting at ships in orbit. That’s why the Rhila got so close. She didn’t even know there were Orrkasi on the planet.
So, SSG Vanhorn found himself blasted down to the planet in an escape pod which was the armory which he and another Marine occupied when the ship blew up. He has been gathering the survivors of the Rhila and has successfully built up a defensive force that has kept the Orrkasi at bay even though they have tried repeatedly to capture or kill all of the humans. SSG Vanhorn had himself once been captured, but the Orrkasi, or Orcs for short, aren’t very bright and he was able to escape. While SSG Vanhorn has been classified as “disabled” from his previous combat injuries, he’s been on planet Leonis B fighting these Orcs for so long that his body has started repairing itself. With all the “exercise” he’s been getting moving throughout the mountains and hiding in caves, he’s almost back to 100% of what he previously was. He still has some physical limitations, but he’s doing far, far better than he thought he ever would.
Now he and the survivors of the Rhila have made contact with a Fleet Ship Venator. It got caught in some space battles with the Orrakasi fleet over the planet and has suffered some damages. They say they can’t send anyone down to the planet until the repairs are done. But, the Orrakasi are about to overrun the hidden cave city of Havvar where SSG Vanhorn and his survivors were hidden, so they plan to capture an Orrkasi transport ship and get back up to orbit so the Venator can pick them up there. That plan works until the Orcs find out what’s going on and SSG Vanhorn needs to create a diversion so the transport can escape the planet. He does this successfully, but he doesn’t make it back to the ship in time so they had to leave without him.
Now stuck on the planet by himself, he’s going to have to manage once again to stay alive against terrible odds. SSG Vanhorn has already killed hundreds of Orcs so he knows what he’s doing. He has an alien companion called Mook, who is a Ploytrot, an intelligent alien that was brought to this planet by the Orcs. Mook can understand some of what SSG Vanhorn says and he can speak some words in English so they do have a limited ability to communicate with each other. Mook is a scavenger/hunter so he’s able to go out at night and find small animals that he brings back for him and Vanhorn to eat. Mook eats his meat raw while Vanhorn obviously prefers his cooked.
SSG Vanhorn does finally get into contact with the orbiting Fleet Ship Venator, but that contact doesn’t work very well. It seems that there is a Fleet Admiral who wants to make a name for himself so he’s not going to tell anyone back on Earth about this planet and the discovery of a special mineral found in the cave city of Havvar until he can say he has captured the planet and rid it of Orrkasi. Yet, he’s not willing to send down more TAC Marines because he knows how dangerous the planet can be. So, he orders SSG Vanhorn to exterminate all the remaining Orcs on planet Leonis B. He’s willing to send some supply drops to SSG Vanhorn, but for some reason, that’s all he’s willing to commit to. So, Vanhorn can use anything that have especially more ammo and a drop is scheduled.
Then he loses communications with the ship. Still he sees a supply drop coming down with it’s parachutes full, but it also has a bright blinking red light on top. It’s going to draw all the Orcs in the area to the same place he has to go. So, how’s SSG Vanhorn going to get these supplies? That’s only a small part of the problems he faces alone on this planet. The fact that a fleet ship is in orbit with additional TAC Marines aboard, but won’t send any down to help is a mystery to SSG Vanhorn.
Still SSG Vanhorn has a mission and he’s going to get it done one way or another. After this, surely there couldn’t be anything standing in his way to get rescued, right? Well, there is a lot more to the story than you first thing. It seems that there is another alien species interested in planet Leonis B. They are the ones that built the cave city Havvar. Now they have returned and they want their city and their planet back. Is this just another alien species that SSG Vanhorn will have to fight. It certainly looks that way after he has to killed the leader of the alien contingent.
This book is a very fast read. I thought it was going to be short after getting into it and finding SSG Vanhorn taking care of business as well as he did. I couldn’t believe how stupid this Fleet Admiral turns out and I’m certainly not impressed by the shipboard TAC Marines. They seem to be led by a Major who is a borderline coward! While there’s a lot to this story, I seemed to have gone through the book really fast. That only makes me want to read more. Book 6, “Extraction” is available on Amazon and I’ve already added it to my reading list.