Ben Slythe's debut novel, militaristic in nature, is clearly not set in the present-day since there are no current societies that could be properly referred to as "The Republic", at least none that I am aware of. The book has no introduction but the Amazon description suggests a social order quite different from anything contemporary before going on to explicitly state that the story concerns future wars. Amazon classifies the book as military science fiction and a quick glance at the contents confirms that. The book is split into three parts, each of about twelve chapters, apparently chronological, suggesting the author has a sense of the importance of organisation.
The story is set against the background of an unusually harsh and oppressive ruling regime that, I strongly suspect, most would despise. Although such societies have undeniable strengths, I do not suggest the author describes such regimes as a good thing; indeed it becomes clear he is doing quite the opposite. As a tale of futuristic war and, almost by definition, "out-of-this-world" the author does an excellent job of describing the protagonist's universe and his progress within it. That universe remains consistent throughout the novel with characters and events both well described and believable as the tale moves rationally towards its, as yet to be realised, goal. The author has an excellent command of both grammar and spelling, at times lacking in the works of some newer self-published authors; his use of Latin quotes as well as his invention of at least one native language, clearly consistent in its use, implies not only imagination but an intelligent writing style.
Written from the third-person perspective of its main protagonist, the story follows the tale of Taeris, a high-ranking officer who has been subject to "re-education" for many years following his denouncement and disgrace by one of his fellows. As a long time reader of science fiction and someone who espouses a battlefield sense of honour, I found the characters easy to relate to and, although the tale focusses heavily on Taeris, I found myself rather fond of another character, Laesa, to whom we are properly introduced a little over halfway through.
The author has a clear grasp of military organisation and historical battles that, added to an adventure set against a background of tyranny and oppression, leaves the reader wanting more. The current trend in fantasy and science fiction is the multi-volume tale and, clearly, from the final chapter of the book, this is no exception, but in some cases, one is left with a sinking feeling as if the very idea of more loses its appeal. Although the next book is yet to be written and it will be some time before I can honestly say if the final tale will impress or otherwise but everything about the book inclines me to optimism.
In the process of reviewing this book, I read it more than once and it is a tribute to the author that his writing held my attention on that second read as well. Indeed, if anything, the second read held my attention better in some ways and, to my mind, this novel is undoubtedly "up there" with the best. I have no problem at all recommending it to other science-fiction aficionados and I will be enthusiastically purchasing the next in the series.
A solid effort and I look forward to the sequels.
Thanks for reading.
J. C. Rocks (aspiring author: "The Abyssal Void War" series)