A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2015
Reality TV and advanced technology make for high drama in this political thriller that combines the military action of Zero Dark Thirty with the classic science fiction of The Forever War.
Lieutenant James Shelley, who has an uncanny knack for premeditating danger, leads a squad of advanced US Army military tasked with enforcing the peace around a conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. The squad members are linked wirelessly 24/7 to themselves and a central intelligence that guides them via drone relay—and unbeknownst to Shelley and his team, they are being recorded for a reality TV show.
When an airstrike almost destroys their outpost, a plot begins to unravel that’s worthy of Crichton and Clancy’s best. The conflict soon involves rogue defense contractors, corrupt US politicians, and homegrown terrorists who possess nuclear bombs. Soon Shelley must accept that the helpful warnings in his head could be AI. But what is the cost of serving its agenda?
This powerful military SF trilogy opener (a Nebula Award nominee in its earlier self-published incarnation) is set in a near future where defense contractors call the shots. "There needs to be a war going on somewhere" at all times to keep the military machine fueled. Lt. James Shelley is an anti-war protestor who only joined the Army to avoid prison. To everyone's surprise, he has a talent for battle and now commands a squadron of high-tech infantry. After a serious combat injury, Shelley's body is augmented by machines, and soon he starts to believe that someone or something is watching over him via his satellite downlink, feeding him hunches that bring victory or at least minimize losses. His men insist that he is like King David, spoken to by God, but he suspects he's dealing with something slightly more mundane: a spontaneously generated web intelligence that Shelley calls the Red, whose motives are unknown. Nagata (The Bohr Maker) writes very good action sequences and the book moves well, even when its protagonist is pinned to a bed and relearning how to use his body. Shelley is a nicely developed character with an interesting voice. Fans of thoughtful, cynical, and not particularly jingoistic military SF will love this book.