By Richard C.
It’s Military SF part III! And for those of you following along at home, I know what you’re thinking — how did it take two whole posts to get to Joe W. Haldeman and Orson Scott Card? Just who does this Richard C. guy think he is, anyway?
Well, here we go!
Of all the Military SF out there, my personal favorite is Haldeman’s The Forever War. The emotional strain of military life before, during, and after deep space battle is more than enough to make you sympathize with William Mandella, newly conscripted soldier and former physics student. But then add the impact of time dilation on his relationships and you get a fun, engaging, complex read to savor and recommend (Hugo, Locus, and Nebula award winner). Then there’s Starship Troopers. The boot-camp and battle scene narratives are so compelling that the U.S. Navy itself officially recommends it. Some say it’s Heinlein’s best, though my personal favorite will always be The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Either way, Heinlein writes a mean Military SF.
Ender’s Game is as classic as it is well known. So read it if you haven’t, but also try Mindwar, Empire, or Mecha Rogue. All are exciting/sad portrayals of futuristic military establishments, youth under pressure, punishing battle suits (think Iron Man ) and stunning virtual reality for you true technophiles out there.
Along the same lines are Orphanage and All You Need Is Kill. The latter is the basis for the movie Edge of Tomorrow, but, as usual, I appreciated the Japanese setting and the more nuanced psychology of the book more than what Doug Liman and Tom Cruise had to offer. You can even try it as a manga!
Many say Old Man’s War reminded them of The Forever War – even Joe Scalzi himself, I think. All the characters are over 80 years old in the beginning, so it may be a slow start for some. But once the body rejuvenation gets going and you get used to Scalzi’s (rather Heinlein-like) narrative, the unique identities and humor of those newly young senior citizens lead the way to a great Military SF series.
Somehow I didn’t find the book Armor while reading The Best Military Science Fiction of the 20th Century. Nevertheless, try it out for the armored battle suit theme, the crushing solider experience, the nightmare insectile enemies, and the obstinate military bureaucracy.
Halo: The Fall Of Reach and Mass Effect: Revelation are video game crossovers that fit nicely in the Military SF theme. And I certainly can’t finish without a Star Trek reference. The Romulan War and its sequel To Brave the Storm take you back to when the Federation and its technology were young and looking vulnerable to the Vulcan’s more violent brothers and sisters.