Review: The Cost of Victory

The Cost of Victory
The Cost of Victory by Jay Allan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Although better than the first book in the series, this second one still managed to leave me even more disappointed.

How’s that possible, you ask? Well, let’s see…

(chalk up the following as part review and part advice for would-be military sci-fi authors.)

The writing was better in a general sense. It was easier to read and had fewer points where I was thrown out of the story. That’s about the best good thing I can say about it.

The story had great potential in the plot, but for each plot point, it completely failed to raise the stakes believably enough before jumping to a too-swift reversal of fortune where the good guys come out on top. I want them to win, but it can’t be easy! I enjoyed the political intrigue that was added, giving us some specific bad guys to hate, but it was too easy to overcome the nefarious plots. I kept waiting for the main guys to stick it to the smarmy secondary bad guys, but even that never happened.

The main characters get even more Mary-Sue-ish. The really good guys are really good all the time. They never fail. Sometimes it looks like they might, but then… nope…they win again.

The after-action report style of battle resolution is still present (and the numerals instead of words… arrgghhh…. see my review of book one).

I liked the space battles, they were a nice addition that was not present in book one. The problem became an over-obvious repetition of tactics by the end or the book. They got resolved with out enough detail. If you are going to tell me about a space battle, I need details of the ships, (What do they look like? How do they work?) and how they blow up, not just a list of which ones blew up in what order. Boring!

And, please, for the love of little green apples, knock off the repetitive reasoning/explanation/reiteration for why things happen, or why people think certain things, or why they act certain ways. Saluting is hard in armor… got it the first time… no need to repeat it twenty times over the course of the book. Officers have ghosts in their heads from all the men that they send out to die in battle. It is not necessary to repeat that every time a battle is starting to cause casualties. Wounded Marines have to be cut out of damaged armor with a plasma torch, and also, you have to use a plasma torch to cut Marines out of their armor when it gets damaged and they are wounded. Rewording the thought is still repetition… especially when you do it less than two chapters apart. Sheesh! Get an editor or some beta readers who can show you where you ‘already said that’ and maybe chop out a few thousand useless words from your manuscript before you publish it.

The only thing that kept me reading was wanting to find out ‘the secret’ on Epsilon Eridani IV.

If you want to save yourself the trouble, you can see a spoiler by clicking here.

So, all I can say is that it wasn’t terrible, but I won’t be reading any more of the series unless I get to the point that I can’t stand not knowing how the plot goes. And with nine books in the series, I don’t think I can take it. I give this one two stars and call it an I-Already-Read-That Read.
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Review: Marines

Marines by Jay Allan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The opening scene of Marines by Jay Allan has you clinching your orifi alongside the greenest of green Privates as he is shot from a space cannon inside his metal Marine Infantry suit toward the enemy planet below him. It sort of reminded me of the drop scene in that do-over movie that Tom Murry (or Bill Cruise?) was in… Edge of Groundhog Day… I think it was….

Anyway, you see some action time, then you get to flash back to where Private Cain began his journey from Earth. It is at this point you begin to get the full picture of the society of the Crimson Worlds. It is a well developed future society. The details of its development are copious and well done (if you like that sort of thing… which I do. If you don’t, you may get bored with some of it). The origin story of Cain, and the dystopian/utiopian reality of the future Earth and it’s eight superpowers are quite intense.

Then you resume with his military journey, where Cain proves himself to be an astute military practitioner. He quickly moves up the chain of command, to his constant surprise (and mine too actually, but it’s told from his perspective, so maybe he cuts out the ‘awesome’ because his character genuinely doesn’t see it as such? I chose to give the author the benefit of the doubt here.) Consequently, he becomes one of the most decorated military heroes of the war. You will get to see several battles in his career, but many of them read a bit like an after-action report than as if you were in the battle.

The three stars I give are for world building, tech details, and for enough story flow to keep my interest despite the lack of really exciting action I would expect from this type of book. I had some issues with the characters being somewhat bland, and the dialog was not very exciting. It was very much the style of a military journal or memoir with only two or three other characters shown with any depth at all. That doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting story though. Don’t let any flaws I might have incorrectly perceived drive you away from trying the book, though. It is worth reading. In fact, I will probably read the next installment to see how the foreshadowed societal shift takes place. I have to reiterate that the world building is top notch. Heck, it is even ‘possible’ if we found real wormholes to drive our spaceships through!

I do have to point out one big ‘irk’ I found in the book. It may not bother most, but it did bother me. The biggest ‘irk’ I had in this book was a grammatical choice. They used digits for numbers instead of the words. It really throws me out of a story. I’m reading a tale, and then all of a sudden I get hit with things like: 800 troops out of 1026 total, and we had 35% casualties in one unit, but only 60% of those were seriously wounded… now I feel like I’m looking at an Excel spreadsheet instead of reading a novel. This is where some of that ‘after-action report’ feel came into play. Whoever edited this needs to understand that this is bad form.

OK, so all told, this is a three star book for me, and I call it a Worthwhile Read.

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