BOOK REVIEW: The Frontlines Series, by Marko Kloos

-This is a review of the entire Frontlines series. As such it contains minor spoilers for all books. Proceed with caution-

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Publisher: 47North

Genre: Military SF

Books: 6

Published: 2013-2018

Verdict: 5/5

 

Humanity is expanding into space, settling dozens of new worlds. Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones who want them…

The best military SF is written by those with experience, and you can tell from the opening stages of Terms of Enlistment that Marko Kloos knows his way around the army. And the navy for that matter. Set a few centuries from now on a bleak, overpopulated Earth, the daily grind of boot camp has never felt so real.

While the series starts off in fairly typical gung-ho, America-in-space style, with the North American coalition fighting the dastardly Sino-Russian Alliance, there’s a lot more to the series than that. At first we follow Andrew Grayson from slums, through boot camp, and then into full military service. It’s well written and engaging for all of that. But things really kick up a notch in the climax of Book 1, when we get our first look at an alien race.

The Lankies are a formidable foe. Towering over humans like Godzilla, terraforming planets and pumping out lethal gas without mercy. In all honesty, I’m not a big fan of aliens. All too often they’re just people with funny accents, or wonky foreheads. While you can get away with that in TV and film due to the limiting factor of having to use human actors, in literature it’s a lot harder to justify. So I am happy to see that the Lankies are a genuinely alien foe. There is nothing remotely human about them. In size, biology and morality, they are utterly different, and that’s quite a trick to pull off in what are generally quite short novels.

Like a lot of military SF writers, Kloos loves his details. The intricacies of rank of competing branches within the military play a key role in the series. As does the matter of fraternization within the ranks. The developing relationship between Grayson and Halley is one of the lynchpins of the series, and it’s one of the most compelling romances I’ve come across in the genre. Similarly, the rivalries and friendships between Grayson and his comrades carry a lot of the story, and not once do they drop the ball.

This is not a perfect series. Books 2 and 4 have an element of wheelspinning about them, and some of the action does grow repetitive. But never to the point that it becomes unbearable. The only major issue I have with the series is something of a spoiler, which I’ll detail below:

In Book 4, there is a discussion over the existence of ‘illegal orders’ – the orders in question being against the US constitution. however, given that the President and Congress signed off on the orders, I’m not sure they qualify as illegal. Granted I’m not a military lawyer, or any sort of lawyer for that matter, but it does add a level of moral grey that I doubt Kloos intended.

That aside, this is a strong series, and any series is allowed a few missteps along the way. Book 6 is open-ended, but it does not seem as though more Frontlines stories are on the way, at least for the time being. However, if you do want more, the short story ‘Lucky 13’ is a part of Netflix’s LoveDeath+Robots series, which I really need to get around to watching myself.

If you’re a military SF fan, or just into action-packed space adventure, then this will be  the perfect series for your next read.

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