Published by Solaris
Andy Remic: http://www.andyremic.com/
The statement atop Andy Remic’s War Machine bills the author as “The new master of rock-hard military science fiction.” Bold words, but Solaris is new hungry publisher and Andy Remic’s novel is indeed a solid ‘rock-hard military science fiction.’ Not having read all the military science fiction on the shelves, I can’t possibly judge the veracity of the “master” statement on the book. All I can do is set down my thoughts about the book, so here we go.
By the by, the novel takes place in a very distant future, with Earth existing only as a distant memory. In this far future we meet our three protagonists, Keenan, Franco, and Pipp. These three are remnants of Combat K, what amounts to a military Back Ops outfit. At the outset of novel; however, they have been split up, for a time, after a mission gone bad; Keenan seemingly the only one with something of a normal life, despite the seething anger he feels over the murder of his wife and children. Franco is confined to a mental institution and undergoes mental and physical torture by a madman named Betzeh while Pipp was dropped on a prison planet with little more than her wits and drive to survive against the savage inhabitants.
Combat K is brought back together by the promise of finding out who murdered Keenan’s family. A mysterious benefactor tells of a mythical artifact, the Fractured Emerald that can provide the answers to all questions, including Keenan’s question. With this, the heist is set in motion as Combat K traverses the Quad Galaxy for the famed Fractured Emerald. Remic does a very good job keeping the sense of urgency throughout most of the novel, Keenan is desperately obsessed to find the identity of his family’s murderers.
Over the course of the novel, Remic reveals much of each character’s past – what led them to the first incarnation of Combat K, how they feel about their comrades. Though not fully seamless, Remic’s backstory narratives don’t interfere with the overall flow of the plot too much. Franco, perhaps, shined the most. Though his character was partially that of comedic relief, he was still drawn well enough to rank beyond just funny one-liners.
The pacing that keeps Combat K moving across the galaxy, as I said, is maintained quite well until the latter chapters of the novel. It probably isn’t too much of a spoiler to reveal that Combat K arrives in a strange world to retrieve the Fractured Emerald and then are required to bring it to an even stranger world. This last world was provided a real nice sense-of-wonder; the type many readers of science fiction seek when opening a book in the genre. Though reminiscent slightly of Peter Hamilton’s recent Pandora’s Star, Remic created a world and Big Dumb Object that works as his own.
The novel did have some problems, though. Although the far-future setting is detailed and fully realized, there were far too many references to 20th / 21st Century popular culture and society for a galaxy supposedly thousands of years out of a habitable Earth. References to the Hobbit and other elements of today’s culture rang a bit hollow. On the other hand, I can’t quite argue with a far-future where one can easily find a perfectly poured pint of Guinness.
The one character I found a bit frustrating was Betzeh. I hesitate to reveal too much of later elements of the story but I found his continual ability to survive all the physical damage a bit much to fully buy, despite his welcome presence in later parts of the novel.
I found myself turning the pages pretty briskly and was wondering how so much could be resolved as I was drawing near the end of the book with so few pages remaining. With a cliffhanger ending, I was no longer surprised. Back to what started this review, the statement atop the cover of the book – it might be a bit of an overstatement. For example, I don’t think Remic’s work is better than that of another “current/new” writer of Military Science fiction – John Scalzi. However, War Machine is still a very entertaining novel and on the whole, I enjoyed despite the above-referenced problems.
© 2008 Rob H. Bedford