Friday, June 5, 2015

Gone to Fight Indians

Review of The Few (The Return of the Marines 1) by Jonathan P. Brazee

Unrelenting action. Shaky grammar and word choices. Two or three dozen main characters. Jargon-laden prose. Usually, any two of these would be enough to have me put down a book in disgust, yet the quality of the action and the expertise with which Brazee fleshes out his multitude of Marines drew me in early and kept me reading. 

The story hook was compelling, too. In this near-future tale, the Marines have been disbanded as a separate branch of the military. The few who remain as Marines serve almost exclusively as embassy guards or security details. 

The California senator who had presided over the Dismemberment of the Corps (as the Marines refer to it) is now their Commander In Chief.

“Sir, you may have made our jobs into being guards,” he replied, with a slight emphasis on the “you,” “but every Marine is a rifleman. We are warriors, by a long tradition earned in blood. And I’m sorry, but with all due respect, no politician can change that.”

What justified the cost-cutting measure that ended the Marines was an astonishing about-face by the religion of Islam. In a Reformation as profound as that of Luther and Calvin, Islam had transformed itself into a true religion of peace. With this change, the only wars left are economic: outsourcing of jobs and easing of trade restrictions are the strategic maneuvers. This is not the kind of battlefield on which Marines are needed.

And yet they are. The security detail of Marines at the US Embassy in New Delhi is gathered as an honor guard to welcome the POTUS as he arrives for a trade summit that will be held in the adjacent consulate building. The President barely makes it into the grounds before hostilities open. The Marines he despises are all that stand between him and death.

The action of the tale begins as soon as the opening hymn has sounded and the first players have been introduced. Brazee juggles the different character's motivations and voices well, building a complex view of many players that persists through the most heated action scenes. The tone and language is authentic, if laden with typos and grammatial errors. 

And acronyms. Thousands of acronyms: NEO (Noncombatant Evacuation Operation), HEAT ammo (High-Explosive Anti-Tank), DSS (Diplomatic Security Service), pax (passengers), and IOC (Infantry Officers' Course).

It helped that there is an acronym list in the back of the book. It did not help that not all the acronyms Brazee throws around are listed, nor that I didn't find the list until I finished reading. It is not listed in the Contents; you have to get there by paging to it. However, I was reading the novel on my Kindle, and used the Wikipedia lookup to help clarify anything that wasn't obvious from the context.

The power of this story was such that despite the hesitations from unfamiliar jargon and typos, the pace was unrelenting. I had to ignore all such petty problems, because Brazee made me want to know these people, learn how their story turns out. I had to read to the end, and having done so, I had to get the next two books in the series. (The Proud and The Marines, of course!)

Liner Notes:

The flavor of this story reminded me strongly of another Mil SF favorite: Michael Z. Williamson's Freehold series. I suspect Brazee will join Williamson on my "re-read periodically" shelf.