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Hard Duty: Merkiaari Wars (Volume 1) Paperback – August 20, 2012
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Cooper has even given us a historical back drop, detailing what happened to the humans with another species, the Merkiaari, and a devastating war over 200yrs ago. The war nearly decimated the Human race but they managed to hold their own, and eventually turned the tide. Part of this is owed to a special Elite unit called the Vipers, specially developed Cyborgs. The best soldiers with a unique set of personality traits were chosen to be ‘modified’.
It is 200yrs later that Humanity is only just starting to come back out into space fully, having spent that time repairing all of their colonies (those that could be fixed), fortifying their planets and space, and re-arming just in case.
Now, 200yrs on, they have come across another alien race, only the 2nd species they have encountered, and this time, they are worried about the consequences. Will it lead to another war like last time? Do they just come out fighting to avoid this? Or do they offer the hand of friendship first like last time and hope for a better result? (The first time was death for the emissaries that were sent to greet the Merkiarri).
So, without giving away spoilers for the story, this book gives us an insight into the Vipers through the eyes of Erik Penleigh, a veteran Viper on a mission to quell a rebellion. Cooper uses this opportunity to also give us a bit of background on the rest of the Human Universe, the state of affairs, the last 200yrs etc, bring us up to speed. It is a very clever bit of writing. He then jumps to Captain Jeff Colgin, who is currently Captaining a survey vessel that has discovered the Shan. Again, without giving it all away, this is where the story really captured me, and I knew that I was hooked, as Colgin and his crew studied this evolved, highly intelligent Feline species, the Shan. The Author gives us several main characters amongst both the Human and the Shan to get attached to and involved with, and they are exceptionally well written, in-depth, believable, some you want to meet, some you dislike, some you know you would just love. The Shan are an incredible species – Cooper does a remarkable job of defining them – again, I don’t want to spoil it.
On the other side of this are the Merki – the Boogie Man, the thing that goes bump in the night, mainly because it's reaching over and ripping your arm off so it can eat it before killing you. These Aliens are a force of nature, killing everything in their path, laying waste to worlds and threatening the extermination of all. Again, Cooper does a wonderful job of eliciting fear in everybody (except the Vipers, who are too busy causing fear to feel it) from past history.
This is a brilliant story, and is going to be an absolutely outstanding series. The only problem I see is that there is an end to each book, and you have to wait for the next one!
Not a bad book, but the author really needs to figure out how to end a book properly. I understand this is set to be a multi-book series, but there are far better authors out there who get how to transition the story line.