Thursday, May 7, 2015

Terms of Enlistment (Science Fiction)

What would you do if you were desperate? You live in a welfare tenement surrounded by hopelessness, crime, and extreme poverty. You are given synthetic food that never quite tastes like food. Your only real chance out is to enlist in the military. You need to stay in and stay alive for five years to see any real reward and then it is a minor one. But you get to eat real food and get a chance to experience life beyond the Public Residence Clusters (PRC). Could you be focused enough, disciplined enough, and lucky enough to at least have a chance at a decent life? Through the character of Andrew Grayson, who lives in the not so distant future, Marko Kloos explores that question in the novel Terms of Enlistment.

Terms of Enlistment begins with Andrew’s farewells in the PRC and his basic training. While Andrew dreams of escaping his life and going into space, his “permanent” assignment is a disappointing one, the Territorial Army, think the National Guards. There he makes good friends but must help control the very violence in the PRC’s that he tried to escape. Despite his bravery and exceptional military savvy. Andrew makes a major mistake, one that costs dozens of civilians their lives. Through his well-earned earned political connections, Andrew manages an unheard of reassignment, one to the Navy, which now allows him to go into outer space. But, his first real mission is far more unusual than anyone ever expected; they learn that humans are not alone in the universe.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I am not a lover of military fiction, even if it is science fiction. The fact that I even ended up reading Terms of Enlistment is the result of a series of flukes. So here we are. I won’t praise or criticize the novel. What I can tell you is that my reaction to the PRC’s and the military fighting in them surprised me. First I thought that Kloos was cynical when it came to human nature. And then the Boston riots happened in the world outside the book. While Kloos interpretation of unrest wasn’t a literal one, it did capture some of the flavor of it. The book made me think in ways I would not have otherwise, which I always consider a good thing.

Well, since I talked my local Library system into purchasing the first two books in Kloos’s series, I’m committed to reading the follow-up to Terms of Enlistment, Lines of Departure. At least it has space aliens in it. We will see.

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