- Published by Harper Voyager
- First published in 2022
- Military SF
- 349 pages
Never leave a man behind. It’s an easy promise to make, a far harder one to keep. So when ‘Gas’ Gastovsky learns of a friend’s disappearance, he pulls out all the stops to get him back . . .
Michael Mammay’s debut novel Planetside is one of the reasons I started this blog. It was a great book, and one that I couldn’t find anyone to talk to about. Happily, it seems the book blogging community at large enjoyed it just as much as I did. I’d even call Planetside the worst kept secret favourite of the online community. Not bad for a book picked up on a whim. I’ve kept up with Mammay’s work ever since, even with the delays in UK publications. The whole -side trilogy is a delight, and apparently has a fourth volume in the works. But while I wait for news on that, and before I get to Mammay’s upcoming Generation Ship, there’s this book to deal with.
The Misfit Soldier is a standalone, but those who have read Mammay’s other works will feel at home here. Thematically it’s got a lot in common. It’s military SF, written by someone with an intimate and first-hand knowledge of how the military machine works. There’s no backslapping patriotism, but rather a more jaded view of the whole idea. Not in a critical sense, but in the way that warfare has worn the gloss away, and what’s left are hard-bitten soldiers treating war like the job it is.
Stylistically, however, The Misfit Soldier is a very different beast to its predecessors. It’s still told in the first person, but Gas is a very different narrator to Planetside‘s Butler. He’s a lot more self-serving, for a start, even if he is loyal to his comrades. The phrase ‘loose cannon’ could easily be applied to our Gas. A lot of the buzz around The Misfit Soldier promises this to be a comedy, or at the very least funny. Personally, I disagree with this reviews. This is definitely a lighter piece of reading than Mammay’s other books, but it didn’t make me laugh. It’s wryly amusing, and gets the odd smile. But I wouldn’t approach it expecting to have your sides split with laughter.
If you’re already a Mammay fan, then this will scratch the itch for more. If you’re looking to start with his work, I’d still recommend starting with Planetside. It may be part of a longer series, but it’s a stronger book.
More by Michael Mammay
Planetside #1: Planetside
Planetside #2: Spaceside
Planetside #3: Colonyside
Deeper Dive: The Lighter Side of Military SF
Military SF has a reputation for being po-faced. That makes sense. The mass-killing of humanity is, after all, a rather serious affair. Characters might crack the odd joke, but the overall tone tends to be rather straight. Part of this stems from the desire to do justice to the seriousness of the situation. When your life is on the line, you take it seriously. There’s also the fact that many writers of military SF are former armed services themselves, and they don’t want to make light of the experiences they are drawing on in their literature.
Yet at the same time, gallows humour is a part of life. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve made jokes about the dangers I face in my life. No, farming and active service are not the same, but danger is danger. Laughing at death is a part of life, so it’s only natural that humour bleeds through into military SF. I have to say, I prefer it to be serious. But a laugh every now and then is never a bad thing.
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