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Terms of Enlistment (Frontlines, 1) Paperback – January 28, 2014
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“There is nobody who does [military SF] better than Marko Kloos. His Frontlines series is a worthy successor to such classics as Starship Troopers, The Forever War, and We All Died at Breakaway Station.” ―George R. R. Martin
The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements: You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world . . . or you can join the service.
With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price . . . and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.
The debut novel from Marko Kloos, Terms of Enlistment is an addition to the great military sci-fi tradition of Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, and John Scalzi.
Revised edition: This edition of Terms of Enlistment includes editorial revisions.
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“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.
- Publisher : 47North; Revised edition (January 28, 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 334 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1477809783
- ISBN-13 : 978-1477809785
- Item Weight : 13.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #353,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #2,456 in War & Military Action Fiction (Books)
- #2,634 in Space Marine Science Fiction
- #8,189 in Science Fiction Adventures
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Overall I started to enjoy the story as it picked up. It's a little generic at times, but you're getting a "generic" story from a particular point of view, the main character Andrew Grayson, so I think that actually helps its case. What also helps is the the military background of the Author. There are some minor twists and turns in the story that help move things along without overdoing anything as well.
At the end of the day, it's an easy read that's enjoyable and I would recommend it if you are looking for a military sci-fi story.
It's just ... it's just so good! I am a huge fan of the military science fiction genre. I love books like The Lost Fleet Series by Jack Campbell, and The Man of War Series by H. Paul Honsinger. Kloos, Honsinger and Campbell all understand how to mix together elements of honor, excitement, duty, realistic military descriptions, and space-faring ships crewed by humans in a way that is just spell binding. These kinds of books are capable of keeping me up until 4 AM to read "just one more chapter" because I HAVE TO find out what happens next!
Kloos, like Campbell and Honsinger, writes exciting military science fiction that depicts humanity realistically, but with some artistic license to keep things interesting. None of them go too dark with their stories (no rape, no torture, no crimes against women), and all of them tell interesting, page-turner tales.
In Terms of Enlistment, Kloos tells the story of a dystopian future for humanity (rapidly approaching in real-life, at the rate things are going) where the Earth is over-populated, and humanity has reached the stars. Things are pretty desperate on earth if you aren't born to a family with money. Most of humanity is living in welfare cities called Public Residential Centers (PRCs) that double as ghettos to keep the poor in one place. The powers on Earth have split into two main factions, the North American Commonwealth (NAC), which is basically all of the Western Hemisphere vs. the Sino-Russian Alliance (SRA), which is basically all of the Eastern Hemisphere.
The main character in the book, Andrew Grayson, was born in a PRC, in what used to be called Boston, before it merged with all of the rest of the mega-cities in the area. He is joining the military to get out of the poverty he was born into, as the military is pretty much the only meritocracy left on Earth that everyone has a chance to make it with.
What follows is a fast-paced, extremely interesting story that is very accurate on the military details, and contains a surprising amount of human-interest elements as well. Grayson starts out as ground-soldier, and by the end of the story he is living through adventures that are amazing, and set the stage for the sequel. You are with Grayson every step of they way, and you understand him, and the choices he makes. The loyalty shown amongst the soldiers rings very true, and is very appreciated in the story (those kinds of elements are why I read military sci-fi in the first place).
Star Wars and Star Trek fans will feel mostly at home in this universe, although the tone of the series is much more Starship Troopers, but with less graphic violence. Read it, you will be glad you did.
Book Content Guide For Parents:
Sex & Nudity: [3/5] the military of the future is an integrated military, so the males and females sleep and shower together. Characters are depicted having sex together, but not in graphic detail (descriptions amount to phrases such as "enjoy each other's bodies", that sort of stuff). Any child over 12 will know what is going on, but it isn't any more graphic than prime-time TV dramas (I would actually said it is quite tamer).
Violence & Gore: [3/5] numerous military battles take place, and humans are killed. No torture, and no gore or graphic details. But descriptions of things like grenades blowing holes in peoples chests, and descriptions of people being shot, and what it feels like to have their lung collapse do occur. I would say the violence levels are at the PG to PG-13 level.
Profanity: [4/5] it is a military novel, OF COURSE it has language in it. All of the "big 4" make it into the language of the soldiers, but not actually as often as you might expect. Nothing too terribly graphic or offensive, though (no bodily descriptions, crude sexual remarks, racial epithets, or hate-speech).
Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking: [2/5] I don't recall any smoking, drug abuse is commented on in the PRCs but never depicted, but there is a bit of drinking in the story, nothing graphic or glamorized, though.
Frightening/Intense Scenes: [3/5] standard PG/PG-13 action/war movie stuff. There are some intense military battles, soldiers die, and the protagonist is in mortal danger more than once. But it is never horrifying or sadistic stuff. Quite tame compared to some of the horror shows I have had to endure lately. None of it bothered me.
Imagine your typical basic training story - throw in a little Starship Troopers (the movie) to include the grunt/Pilot romance - add a scene straight out of Blackhawk Down then mix in a bit of the movie Aliens 2 (minus Sigourney Weaver).
Will probably pick up the sequels.
This is a good Sci-Fi series launching point and, though there are issues with the book itself, it is well done and makes you care enough to wonder what will happen next. The book is fun to read and well put together, despite all of its flaws. The characters, while flat and clichéd, were interesting enough not to get in the way. Overall, this would be a book I would recommend if you're really into Sci-Fi and want something a bit different. It still remains to see what direction the series will take, but I'm willing to bet it is worth a read.
-Somewhat Interesting Main Character
-Well designed setting
-Good scene use
-Detailed, but not overly forceful
-Doesn't obviously flaunt the setting and universe
-Flow at several points
-Some issues with Main Character's feelings
-How Aliens were introduced
-End of book feels rushed and lacks the writing and feel of rest of book imho
Recommendation level: 8/10
Contains a few Spoilers. Nothing I feel will ruin your read.
Terms of Enlistment is an interesting book. How it goes about its plot and setting, not to mention characters, is slightly unorthodox. The book goes a different route from most books due to the fact that there are no super-soldiers, the main character isn't some hero or god-like character with plot armor the size of Texas, there is no massive conflict (at the beginning) and the world is very much a slum, not high tech and futuristic with a similar feeling to life today. Andrew (the main character, whom I will get to later) is nothing but a slum running rat who makes it into the military. It then follows him through his first and second stations and through his basic training as well.
The world is gritty, hard and different from most novels of similar type. Earth is unstable, ruled by corrupt and unjust governments. People riot in the streets and get gunned down. The world isn't pleasant. It isn't that futuristic high tech universe you see in most things. Its cold, jaded and fatalistic. Its one of the books great highlights. Andrew's stint in the “Territorial Army” is quite interesting and cool.
But the book goes downhill as soon as the plot throws him into the Navy. He turns into some kind of Gary-stu who basically keeps a small group of his crew alive until a navy fleet shows up to save them from... You guessed it.
Usually, I wouldn't complain, but it just ruined whatever was special about this book and its series. I was hoping for some kind of civil war, colonial rebellion.
Given the Aliens are pretty well done and different, but how they are added in and written in. It feels rushed, out of place and it doesn't flow well. Plus, its so cliché and irritating with how non-chalant the main characters are about this.
This brings the characters into light. They're okay. In the book, you have trouble liking Andrew, but you root for him anyway. You want him to succeed. He's rather uncaring and emotionless, rather just always angry in some ways. He's really realistic, not someone one would be friends with easily. His motivations are self-centered and simple, but he is such a complex and well written character. My only complaint is his lack of feeling after, before and during the massive riot in Detroit.
Halley is...okay. She's too good at what she does. She is also really flat and has no real complexity. That is my complaint about many of the characters. They're flat and lack interesting qualities. They're nothing but trope based. The most well developed character besides Andrew is Sergeant Fallon, who is one of the more interesting Sergeants I've read, as it keeps her human without making her super gung-ho, but not much farther than that.
The Pacing of the book is another complaint. A lot of things are skipped over and it leaves questions. The author fast forwards in time several times, and it can be jarring or confusing when he does it. It feels like he is continuing from the last chapter, but there are changes to the situation that weren't there and you're confused until he mentions that they skipped ahead a few paragraphs later.
If anything about this book should be praised though. Is its realistic setting, unique universe and plot progression compared to most works of this genre. It would be a book I would recommend.
Top reviews from other countries
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.
The writing is clear enough, even with the military jargon. The reader doesn't get lost during fight sequences so that is a good thing.
I would like to have seen a bit more characterisation. Everyone was kind of bland or bit a cliche, even the main character, Grayson, using the military to escape a dead end life.
By the last third of the book it had sort of morphed into a mix of Star Wars, Starship Troopers, and Aliens (even to the point of remotely activating the drop ship). It didn't feel original or exciting despite the overload of action.
Bottom line, if you want meaningless action you will find it;if you want world building and 3D characters this isn't it.
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!