- File Size: 2061 KB
- Print Length: 347 pages
- Publisher: 47North; Revised edition (May 8, 2013)
- Publication Date: May 8, 2013
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00CIXX144
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,619 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Terms of Enlistment (Frontlines Book 1) Kindle Edition
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“Military science fiction is tricky because it either intends to lampoon the military industrial complex or paints it in such a way that you must really have to love guns to enjoy the work. Terms of Enlistment walks that fine line by showing a world where the military is one of the few viable options off a shattered Earth and intermixes it with a knowledge of military tactics and weapons that doesn’t turn off the casual reader.” —Buzzfeed
“Much like Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and its sequels, Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure are combat-grade military SF, and should come with an addiction warning.” —io9
“Frontlines is earnest, optimistic, and fun, even as it deals with subject matter that’s intrinsically grim. It’s a story that strikes the perfect balance between escapism and serious reflection, and it’s the perfect military sci-fi series to escape into for a week or two.” —The Verge
About the Author
Marko Kloos is the author of the Frontlines series of military science fiction and is a member of George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards consortium. Born in Germany and raised in and around the city of Münster, Marko was previously a soldier, bookseller, freight dockworker, and corporate IT administrator before deciding that he wasn’t cut out for anything except making stuff up for fun and profit. Marko writes primarily science fiction and fantasy—his first genre love ever since his youth, when he spent his allowance mostly on German SF pulp serials. He likes bookstores, kind people, October in New England, fountain pens, and wristwatches. Marko resides at “Castle Frostbite” in New Hampshire with his wife, two children, and roving pack of voracious dachshunds. For more information, visit www.markokloos.com.
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AILS Automated Instrument Landing System
BNA Basic Nutritional Allowance
CDB Combat Drop Badge
NAC North American Commonwealth
NNC Neural Networks Center
NIFTI Navy Infrared Thermal Images
PDP Personal Data Pad
PRC Public Relations Cluster
SRA Sino-Russian Alliance
TA Territorial Army
TI Tactical Interface
UWTF Urban-Warfare Training Facility
Honestly, I purchased this 5-book Frontlines series due to the over abundance of positive reviews and the total cost of only $6.25. Prior to purchase I had only read and was pleased with this book's Sample. I haven't read beyond the first book but hope the old adage "you get what you pay for" doesn't apply to the remaining books. If so, my bad!
So our hero signs up, goes through boot camp, which is the usual torture, except he meets a girl, and then at the end they are all sent to one of the different areas. There is the overly coveted Navy positions, the Marines that work in space either on the ships or on the colonies, or there is the TA, the Terrain Army that stay on Earth and look after home. No one wants the TA as it is looked at as being the worst of the jobs, dealing with the welfare places when they riot etc. Of course, the girl gets Navy, and Andrew gets TA.
So the start of this book does have some similarities to Starship Troopers, as a lot of other reviews have said, but that is only because of the boot camp and the girl who goes to Navy. At the end of the day, Andrew ends up with Halley, and they stay in touch, long distance.
Andrew goes to TA, finds he loves it, meets his team who become some of his best friends, and realises that the whole space deal is not all it's cracked up to be. The real comparison that should have been made to this book was Black Hawk Down, as part way through the story, a mission to control one of the welfare areas goes wrong, and then a dropship is taken out – and you can almost hear the call ‘We have a Blackhawk down, we have a Blackhawk down’, but instead, it's a dropship down. And all of a sudden, all hell breaks loose, and a large part of this book is taken from the movie, just with more modern tech as they try and rescue the crew of the dropship, and ultimately, rescue themselves in the middle of a PRC that has gone to the darkside.
Not to say that was a bad thing. This was a good introduction of the Characters, the concept of the various elements such as the Navy, the TA, and some of the characters that are key to the story in this and future stories. It also gives a good understanding of the background of Earth and its current predicament, especially things like the PRCs, I mean, we complain about welfare now, but Kloos’ future makes now sound like a fairy-tale in comparison
Kloos has a good understanding of Military tactics and operations, and describes them well in the story, making this a good Military Sci-fi read. Well worth the read, I am into part 3 already, they keep getting better as they go on.
Now for the slightly longer review. First the good stuff.
Terms of Enlistment does a good job of dropping you into the future and getting you to care about the main character, Andrew Grayson. The author’s military background shows so it has that nice ring of verisimilitude I look for in Miltary Sci Fi. It’s written in first person, present tense (ala Hunger Games) which is a good decision for creating sympathy. The worldbuilding is slight, which also works well, we knew just enough to build the story around. There’s no discussion of ‘how things ended up this way’, technology isn't too terribly advanced so it’s not a post-singularity novel, which makes it easier to understand the world. People remain people, with real and understandable motivations. It’s fairly PG (or PG-13) as for sex, violence and language. It’s about soldiers, not plaster saints but it’s not a Joe Abercombie or Mark Lawrence novel. It also has enough tips of the hat to the PC police to please those who want to see female soldiers as well. On the whole, I enjoyed it, I burned through the first book and bought the second immediately (Thank you, Amazon One Click) and devoured it. Only then did I start to digest the story and that’s made me pause in buying any more books in the series, but I do want to read more of what Marko Kloos has written. So, now onto the bad stuff, don’t worry it’s not really a damning list, at least for the first book.
The main character doesn't really drive this plot in the first book. He just sort of…watches things happen. That almost makes sense for a military novel, there’s always someone up higher in the chain of command telling you what to do, but the main character doesn't solve any problems…unless we count the problem of a sniper in one fight and the problem of some heavy machine guns in the second. Now that almost works, as this first novel is almost more of a travelogue to the future, but it’s imperfect storytelling, I think. It’s realistic but not satisfying but that’s just me, I prefer heroic stories with active characters.
What was strange is the trajectory of the first novel. Andrew Grayson is set up as a pretty straightforward infantryman, he shows aptitude for small unit tactics and doesn't pitch too much of a fit when he’s assigned to the Territorial Army rather than the more glamourous (and space-based) Marines. So far, we’re following the Starship Troopers playbook, even down to the romance with the pretty pilot girl…though unlike Rico, Grayson actually gets the girl. But then things go awry. Grayson ends up causing some serious civilian casualties, collateral damage from a rocket round. The character looks to be set up for a fall but ends up transferring to a different MOS and a different branch of the service, the Navy. This is a bizarre plot twist and though I followed it, in retrospect, it really bumps me. We’re set up for one story but then it goes off in a different direction for reasons I’m not clear on. So we basically have two ‘fish out of water’ stories here, one going into the Army and one going into the Navy. And then the aliens show up. Which tosses us in yet another plot trajectory.
So we have two stories going on here, maybe three. One, the ‘US’ vs the Chinese and Russians, then we have the humans vs the aliens. (We also have a civilian vs military plot but that emerges more in the second book) There’s no sign anywhere early in the book that we’re going to be dealing with aliens. Remember, with Starship Troopers, we start off in combat with aliens, so we know what to expect even if we backtrack to follow Rico’s boyhood and enlistment/training. Now, the whiplash almost works, the main character of course doesn't know anything about the aliens until they show up. But that’s one of the weaknesses of first person present tense, we the reader don’t know anything that the main character doesn't know. But we the readers should know what kind of story we’re getting into. The author makes promises in their first chapters (and pages, really) that they need to keep. Surprise aliens sorta breaks that. Not enough to ruin the novel but…it bumped me.
Still, the first book is pretty solid otherwise, so I recommend it.
Top international reviews
You get the theme of over-populated and largely polluted Earth, with the “North American Commonwealth” (the NAC, a substitute for the countries that actually belong to the Alena treaty: Canada, the United States and Mexico) alone packing a population of three million and the whole planet an (implausible?) thirty billion. The population is divided between those that have jobs and earn a living for themselves and the “welfare rats” living in crime-ridden and crumbling welfare tenements and receiving two thousand calories of tasteless processed food a day. Our hero, one Andrew Grayson, is one of these second-class citizens and comes from one of these depressed neighbourhoods in Boston. His only way out, since winning win the lottery by drawing a ticket for a colony ship settling off-world is a pipedream, is to join the armed forces, and its supposed privileges.
This where the theme of the brave, loyal and dutiful “grunts” and their NCOs, all of which are let down by their mostly scheming and/or incompetent officers, except, of course, those which have risen from the ranks. They are the “silent heroes” who get handed hopeless jobs and, at best, token rewards for having accomplished them against all odds or used as scapegoats by “pencil-pusher” officers when something goes wrong and there is “bad PR” as a result.
You also have the theme of the space colonies on painstakingly terraformed planets. Here again, the interpretation is a rather grim one. It costs a fortune and takes decades to make each planet habitable. It also costs a fortune to transport people in space and populate the planets and cryogenisation does not seem to be on the cards in this series. The point here is that, far from alleviating Earth’s over-population issue, the colonies are one of the major drains on the resources of the major powers, and on the NAC’s in particular.
A fourth theme is that of human pan-continental states waging a kind of “tepid war”, neither really “cold”, because they go up against each other and attack each other’s space colonies, nor “hot” because the conflict does not erupt into full blown (nuclear) war on Earth. The conflict has been opposing the NAC and the Sino-Russian Alliance for the last half century, and it is a second source of government spending expenses, with the welfare spending being the third.
A fifth theme is the arrival of unknown, near invincible and all-conquering aliens also looking for new “real estate”. Apart from their appearance, which is deliberately at odds with their advanced technologies but which I will refrain from describing in order to avoid spoilers, they are deliberately shown as inhuman. They are neither “nasty” nor “nice” aliens. They just come in huge seed ships and take over the new colonies one by one, filling them up with carbon dioxide, destroying the human settlers directly if they resist and making the planets simply inhabitable to mankind.
The main value of this book for me was that the story was entertaining, exciting and easy to read, even if quite predictable. The “military action” is rather good, even if the characterisation does include a number of stereotypes (the “no messing” Sergeant Fallon, in particular). As long as you do not start probing too much and wondering to what extent any of it could really happen in a century or so (the action takes place from 2108 onwards), you will spend a few pleasant hours, or at least I hope you will. I did and this is my reason for rating this book four perhaps generous stars.
Trying to escape a fate of living in a hellhole on earth, one of ten billion lost souls with nothing better to do than watch TV and collect government handouts, Andrew Grayson decides to join the navy. Unfortunately, he gets assigned to a less-than-salubrious mission: as a member of the army assigned to keep the self-same hellholes that he was living in, under a tight thumb. Things don't work out as planned, and he goofs big time, earning him a discharge into a different service, which is where things start to get really interesting.
I absolutely loved this book, and after reading it instantly bought the whole of the rest of the series that was available. Nothing in the book comes across as a coincidence, and the author doesn't use deus ex machinas to solve crises, nor does he visit a constant stream of woes upon them, to seem like the ordeal of Sisyphus. The whole storyline plays out very naturally, and nothing feels 'forced' in any way. I was extremely impressed by the accuracy and the pacing of the military action parts of the book itself.
Although some of the settings may seem a little derivative, when everything is put together, this is a truly unique journey. It tells the rise, fall and rise of the protagonist, and shows it through the lens of an unfolding sequence of events that eventually leads to the disastrous discovery of an alien menace which is wonderful in the lack of actual information which is given about them in the book. They remain mysterious and inscrutable, which is perfect for a malignant enemy.
The characters are all very well crafted, and each has a flaw, or a strength which gives them a roundness that makes them interesting to read about. The book starts off right at the beginning, with the cadets going through basic recruitment, and follows them as they find themselves tossed around as military and political pawns, until they come face to face with the new threat.
I loved this book, and it's a brilliant start to a new series!
The characters are reasonable and I liked the descriptions of the army actions. They have the feel of Iraqi-type urban fire-fights we've heard about and I guess that is what the author has based those sections on. The soldiers kit is futuristic but not overly so and the tactics seemed realistic. As do the inevitable failings in the urban operations. However, I couldn't help wondering about some obvious methods overlooked, especially regarding air cover that seemed not available in the earth operation but was readily deployed on the colony planet.
I also had a bit of problem with the aliens as described on the colony. Spacefaring and able to terra-form (not really terra, I suppose) a planet, they seemed to act like a herd of elephants. However, the story stops before we know for sure that these creatures are the technological beings responsible or whether they are just there as part of the terra-forming process carried out by another species. Book 2 will hopefully clear that one up.
And on that note I'm off to start book 2......................
One can clearly feel the author's own military experience in this part, both for better and worse. While on the positive side, the organizational, training and combat aspects are realtively realistic, the equipment used is at times conservative, if one wants to be gracious about it.
The book plays out almost 90 years in the future (2108 is the start date), yet much of the equipment (apart from the space element) is of a level that is already in use or has at least been encountered in prototype form as far back as the 1980s. This probably makes it relatively easy both for the author and the reader in not having to come to terms with abstract, advanced systems but robs the book of some fascination, too, in my opinion. And the Sino-Russian Alliance as a counterpart to the North American Commonwealth smacks of laziness, as well.
The book also features a romantic story, of sorts, although whether it is necessary or superfluous will probably lie in the eyes of the beholder.
Even if it looks that 'faint praise' is being applied, the book is better than that. The action sequences are good, the read generally fast paced and the author obliquely raises enough issues to make it worth reading even if one is not only interested in the firefights. The end turns out a sufficient surprise to keep you interested in the follow-up - Lines of Departure (Frontlines Book 2) - as well.
The romantic sub-plot never quite convinces, but that's not really why we're here.
If you liked The Expanse books as much as you liked the Starship Troopers movie, this is a road you want to be on. Even if the on-ramp’s a little bumpy.
The action blew me away.
The book is well written as a first person narrative and the reader is carried through the fears and excitements as our main protagonist joins the military as a desperate measure to escape the terrible tenements in which he lives and from which he can see no other means of ever leaving. We follow his training and first experiences of military action, culminating in a traumatic space encounter, and we meet his friends, some of whom will continue to play a part in his future life.
The descriptions are detailed but never boring. The tension is constant and ever building. The encounters are often surprising, always terrifying. Once I started to read I was unable to break out to return to my mundane, everyday world. So I was delighted to be able to stay with the story by listening to the excellent narration on the accompanying audio book. It even added to my enjoyment as the voice so perfectly fitted with the main character and his reflections and actions.
Buy the book. Buy the accompanying audio download. Sit back and be taken on a fast track journey of excitement from the comfort and safety of your armchair.
Five years in the military looks like a way out. And the friendships he makes in basic training look like confirming that. After basic he is assigned to the Army, firefighting riots in Bosnia and Detroit - the latter disturbingly like the Boston he left six months ago. Grayson has no doubt where his loyalties lie - with his buddies in his unit. Although they come under fire from others who perhaps aren't so sure - it's a loose end that might be worth exploring.
But the author wants to move on. Rather than face a politically motivated court martial, Grayson wangles a transfer to the navy which is in desperate need of IT admins. He even manages a billet on the same ship as his girlfriend from basic training (the military is unisex this century, and the sky doesn't fall in).
And so to Capella A, in an elderly frigate on a resupply milk run to a far flung colony. Except that it isn't such a milk run as expected - in orbit round the planet, the ship is attacked without warning and crippled. ...
This is the first novel in a series. And for what it's worth, I plan to buy the next one just as soon as I find myself somewhere with a WiFi connection.
From the very start I was impressed. Firstly the author has talent and a flair for good English and grammar. I'm sure many of us have come across a good story only to give up in despair after a short while of mistakes, poor grammar and terrible editing. This is well written, thankfully.
Characterisation is superbly done. Military sci-fi can be a bit hit and miss with the actual people involved, but Terms of Enlistment has a whole series of characters we end up caring about. What is very well done is the way in which our protagonist moves from one branch of the military to another, thus bringing into play both the chance to do some gung-ho stuff along with hard techno sci-fi, blending both together well.
The story bowls along at just the right pace moving from Earth and it's troubles to space where even more are lined up.
Overall a real find. If I was to compare I'd say this comes into the same standard of new authorship as the Evan Currie books which are also wonderfully written and properly engaging.
I think we could see more growth in the hero as a person. It might help the reader if he was a bit more reflective about his life, the world he lives in etc, but he is a foot soldier type and as such may perhaps be excused if he focuses mostly on what is in front of him and how much of a threat it is. The military politics are also handled well. If you want a space opery kind of combat novel then this one is for you.