Backshot: Starfist: Force Recon Book 1, David Sherman and Dan Cragg (Del Rey, 2005)

Grade: Γ — Good book within the genre.  Solid story, good characters, if you like this genre, read this book.

In brief:

Truth be told, I was tempted to give this book a Beta rating. Set in a contemporary timeframe with the other Starfist books, this story speaks to a good deal more than you’re ordinary milfic book. It has social and political commentary that those who do not know the genre may find quite surprising, and truly expanded the Starfist Universe. Still, despite its many merits, I gave it a Gamma because I felt that it would not appeal to most individuals who are not open to MilFic.  Having said that, if you like Military Sci-fi, or are interested in seeing how MilFic can make poignant social and political commentary, I would highly recommend reading this book.

Setting:

“It may be the 24th Century, but the Marines are still just looking for a few good men.” 

The Starfist series follows the adventures of the 34th FIST (Fleet Initial Strike Team) Marines as they fight to defend the Confederation of worlds set around Earth. While the Confederation is the largest union of planets, it is not the only human government in the region, and as the series progresses, it becomes clear that other species are also lurking out their in the stars. 

In Depth:

I opened this book with a bit of skepticism.  After all, with an ever expanding number of volumes in the Starfist series, it seemed likely that the Force Recon sub-series was going to be nothing more than another venue to generate cash.  I was dead wrong. 

Oh, Force Recon does call upon elements common to the other Starfist books that may be becoming a bit too formulaic, but it also takes a very new tack with this latest spin-off.  For one thing, we have a new cast of characters (who yes indeed, are really new characters, not just old characters with a different name as often happens in spinoff series), including the introduction of the best sniper in the force: a woman. 

For another, we see a very different kind of mission than those normally portrayed in the StarFist books. Normally, the StarFist books are about sending in a striker or expeditionary force to engage the enemy. They show up in force and no one has any doubts that the marines have arrived. 

In Force Recon, however, the main mission is to gather intelligence on a planet that seems to be gearing up for war. That means that rather than stand and fight, the characters are forced to sneak around, find out information, and leave without anyone knowing they were there (or at least being able to prove it). 

Unbeknownst to most of the Marines, however, there is also a second mission being run in conjunction with the first.  It involves deadly sniper Bella Dawn (who is also the first female combat character I’ve seen enter the Starfist storyline).  She and a fellow marine have been sent via a different route to assassinate the leader of the world should the intelligence prove that the planet is following a militarizing path. 

What is more, there are other Point-of-view characters who give the readers knowledge that the Recon team does not have. Much of the book, is from the point of view of the president of the planet, and addresses the issues faced by him. Other POV‘s include a skilled woman spy-cum-analyst who is doing her own investigation into intel on the politics of the planet and her own service. As subplots unfold, we see power plays within the intelligence community and interstellar community that bear directly upon the actions of the team. We see intelligence being manipulated for politic purposes, and those within the intelligence service who both help and hinder this process.  Sound familiar to anyone? 

In short, the first outing for the men and women of the StarFIST Force Recon was a tension filled page turning that had a very different feel from the main StarFIST series.  I quite enjoyed this book, and would highly recommend it to MilFic fans.  Indeed, I would even suggest that those critics of MilFic might find it a surprising change of pace.

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About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
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