(2017) Gavin Smith, Gollancz, £9.99 / Can$15.99 / US13.99, pbk, 322pp, ISBN 978-1-473-21725-6
If you’re looking for intense military SF action, then The Bastard Legion delivers.
The story is set 400 years in the future. Dangerous criminals are kept in suspended animation aboard prison ships and rehabilitated in a virtual reality. Well – that’s the theory. Miska, a Marine Recon expert and a hacker, has stolen the ship ‘The Hangman’s Daughter’ and turned it into a battle cruiser. The criminals are forced to become Miska's private mercenary army. It is a powerful situation, and Smith layers in a lot more back story which makes the situation even more rewarding. Its kind of – William Gisbon by way of Sven Hassel.
What I really enjoyed about The Bastard Legion was the way it updates classic far future battle scenes with a cyberpunk edge. Gauss pistols and laser carbines take their place alongside boosted reflexes, dermal armour and battles in cyberspace. So if you’ve read ‘Starship Troopers’ recently and wondered how it might look if a modern author tackled it – here’s your answer. Convincing. Exciting, and decidedly brutal.
Negatives? Not many. The characters are well drawn and there is a lot of background tension which keeps the story moving along. Miska is an interesting central character and she carries the story well. It is hard not to like her – but she doesn’t really read like a career Space Marine, there’s a faint touch of Harley Quinn to her which doesn’t quite fit her background. And the story clearly sets up for a long line of sequels, which is something I normally hate - but in this case I am quite happy. If Smith can produce more Bastard Legion books as good as this, I want to be reading them.
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