Marko Kloos’s military science fiction Frontlines series is quickly becoming one of our favorites, and his latest, Chains of Command shows that Kloos is well on his way to becoming one of the genre’s best assets.
If Kloos’s name is familiar, it might be because he was one of the authors who had withdrawn his novel from consideration for the Best Novel Hugo award last year. We also really loved his first two novels, Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure (the latter of which was nominated for the Hugo). With the latest two novels, Angles of Attack and Chains of Command, he’s telling a story that’s growing in the telling, and getting better with each book.
Angles of Attack picks up shortedly after Lines of Departure. With the human / Lanky war going on for five years, things have begun to get desperate. Andrew Greyson and the rest of his unit have been cut off in a system light years from home after the Lankies invaded our own solar system. The situation has grown dire, for Greyson’s task force, and Earth.
Greyson and the rest of the task force want to get home, but they can’t: the transit point is heavily guarded on the other end, and if they go through, they’re certain to get blown apart. Enter the Sino-Russian Alliance: Together, the North American Commonwealth Forces and the SRA hatch a desperate plan: they’ll deploy a stealth ship, Indianapolis, to scout out the system and bring everyone back. Greyson is tapped to help out with the mission, and heads out to Earth.
(Can I also just take a moment to say how utterly fantastic these covers are?)
Arriving home, they find that the situation is even worse than they expected: Lankies have indeed taken over the system, but there’s some strange things going on with the rest of the NAC fleet: they’re escorted home under heavy guard, and Greyson is taken into police custody for his role in the mutiny in the colony system. While there, they find that not only are the Lankies about to strike, but Earth’s only protectors might not stand up to the assault, leading to a desperate defense of their home planet.
The book is a fine sequel to Lines of Departure. Even picking up the book a couple of years later, it’s easy to pick up on the energy and enthusiasm that Kloos lays down here. There’s plenty of tech and details for the die-hard military SF readers, and a nicely durable world that he’s set up to run his action in. The book moves quickly, from action to action, and there’s rarely a slow point.
Moreover, Kloos’s status as a former soldier himself comes through: accuracy drips from this book, from the attention to detail around the command structure, ranks and military protocol, right down to simply how everything *feels*. It rings truer than just about any other military novel that I’ve read.
Chains of Command picks up a year after the assault on Earth is pushed back. Earth’s soldiers have begun to rebuild and hold off Lanky assaults one by one. During the climax of Angles of Attack, Earth’s elite forces had abandoned their home planet, taking with them top of the line equipment, personnel and ships. As Earth looks to prepare itself to force the Lankies off Mars, they hatch a desperate plan: go after the traitorous factions that left Earth, and bring back some ships to help tip the scales.
Greyson volunteers for a scouting mission to help figure out what the status is of the renegade faction, and to bring the traitors home, or at least their equipment. As they go out further from home than any other military operation in NAC history, they might not return home at all.
Chains of Command brings in some welcome changes to the series. In Angles of Attack, Kloos set much of the action on board the Independence, and the shift to a small crew aboard a space ship worked really well for me - reminding me a bit of the best parts of James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series. Chains of Command does much the same thing as Greyson is assigned to a special forces mission deep in space.
Moreoever, Kloos has begun to explore the impact of warfare on Greyson, now 7 years into his service for the NAC. He’s tired, resorts to alcohol and pills to get through the night, and generally copes with balancing his desire to serve his home planet and stay alive. It’s a theme that’s been covered closely in military SF, but Kloos’s sense of authenticity really shines through here.
It’s apparent at this point in the series that Kloos has improved significantly since the first two books. Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure were each fun outings, making it easy to ignore some of the shortcomings. Now, four books in, it’s clear that Kloos is really in his element, and the story that he’s developed is really beginning to pay off.
Angles of Attack and Chains of Command are now available from 47North.