Synopsis: They said the war would turn us into light.
I wanted to be counted among the heroes who gave us this better world.
The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back…different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief—no matter what actually happens during combat.
Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think is going on.
Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero—or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference.
“When you drop, you burst apart like…Well, first your whole body shakes. Then every muscle gets taut and contracts, like you’re experiencing a full-body muscle spasm centered in your core. The CO says it’s like a contraction when you’re having a kid, and if that’s true, if just one is like that, then I don’t know how everybody who has a kid isn’t dead already, because that’s bullshit.
Then you vibrate, you really vibrate, because every atom in your body is being ripped apart. It’s breaking you up like in those old sci-fi shows, but it’s not quick, it’s not painless, and you’re aware of every minute of it. You don’t have a body anymore, you’re locked in.
You’re a beam of light.”
I’ve been following Kameron Hurley on Twitter for way too long to not have read any of her work, especially since I own many of her books. I think she is ridiculously intelligent & constantly makes me think with what she says. I’m happy to report that it’s not just her tweets that tickle my brain, because goddamn. I dug the hell out of this!
I’m admittedly a rabid fan of military SFF. Besides books, obviously, other media that focuses on this sub-genre are some of my absolute favorite franchises! Aliens, Battlestar Galactica, Mass Effect.. there’s just something about this genre that I can’t help but devour! Most recently, I’ve been diving into Myke Cole’s Reawakening series, which is military fantasy with sci-fi elements. When The Light Brigade was described as a successor to the classics like Starship Troopers & The Forever War (one of my all-time favorites), I knew I needed this to be my first Hurley. I mean.. diverse military sci-fi time travel?!? Sign me the fuck up for all that!
Also, how fucking gorgeous is that cover by Eve Ventrue? I hadn’t heard of her until this, but you better believe I will be keeping up with her work from now on! Oof.
“It’s tough to understand a thing just by hearing about it or looking at it. It’s like having sex or getting into a fight. You don’t get it until you do it.”
The Light Brigade follows Dietz, who is an infantry recruit (a grunt) when we first meet her. She has joined the military in the war against Mars after an intensely traumatic event wipes out millions of people. Earth is run mostly by corporations, rather than the government. Because of this feud with Mars, they have developed a highly advanced, yet experimental, technology to travel quickly to combat zones.
The time travel in this is just fucking bananas! The soldiers are broken down into light particles & jarringly transported to their destination, where they are then reassembled. Seems safe, yeah? UM, NOPE. Things don’t always work out. Because of course not! I’m a fan of body horror, so I just ATE THIS UP!
The title refers to a nickname that is used for the soldiers in the Corporate Corps who have a bad reaction to the drop, which is when they teleport. Dietz is someone that experiences bad drops, but unlike anyone else. She is going through strange things, which often leaves her disoriented & questioning her mental stability. Eventually she begins to realize that she is experiencing the war throughout various time periods, which gives her a different view on the war & who the enemy truly is.
The most interesting thing for me in these type of books is what actually happens in combat & delving into how it affects a person’s mind. That’s what differentiates this particular sub-genre from other science fiction. Rather than have the primary focus on grim environments & alien species & space battles.. the integral part of the stories are the soldiers. Hurley nails this. She’s exploiting the horrors of war, without ever glorifying or promoting it. And these characters completely captured my heart! Their chemistry, banter, comradeship, how authentic they felt.. just ALL THE THINGS!
The Light Brigade is a mind-fuck. In fact, I’m finding it hard to gather my thoughts about it because it’s just.. it’s a lot. ::insert reactionary gif of a brain exploding:: It’s brilliant & weird & just fucking brutal as hell. I adored all of the references that were sprinkled throughout, although I’m sure I missed even more. GAH!! I loved this book so goddamn much!
This is All You Need Is Kill (highly recommended – it’s the book that The Edge of Tomorrow is based on) meets The Forever War meets Battlestar Galactica, but far more aware of issues involving the real world & our present-day situation. Hurley is such an engaging writer. This is truly a masterful piece of military science fiction. Visceral, evocative, gritty, emotional & written with so much heart.
It has that old-school feel, but it’s a game changer. For real.
ALL THE BLOODSHED STARS IN THE GALAXY!!
(Massive thanks to the rad folks over at Saga Press for sending me a copy!)