Solaris hardcover £25 / $30
*** (3 stars) review by Donald Morefield
New war in Europe rages between US corporate forces and plucky Nordics. While the steadfast Russians invest in formidable reputations and giant ‘Jodorowsky’ helicopter gunships, the mega-wealthy Americans depend on their privileged heirs and favoured brats as armoured ‘Scions’ - protected by the very best battle-kit accessories that dark money can buy. The more progressive states, like Finland, develop meta-were-human combatants with abilities so far beyond the customised but familiar wraparound suits of a captain iron-man and his ilk.
Basically, this standalone novella starts off as a sci-fi version of Saving Private Ryan (1998), with super-soldiers. Sergeant Ted Regan is ordered to lead a small team on a rescue mission behind enemy lines only to find that he’s completely expendable in the on-going conflicts between vast global commerce and seething political idealism. Can the Sarge’s band of wholly underestimated heroes rebel against their elitist superiors, and fight on to save the world from the masters of mankind?
This type of genre storytelling is probably best presented as a graphic novel. Indeed, it’s war-punk themes and hi-tech notions are very similar to a few recent adventures in the world of independent comics. Warren Ellis has tackled such ideas before and he remains the subgenre’s finest practitioner of neo-military SF and political intrigue. Adrian Tchaikovsky sketches in his characters well enough but, ultimately, the merry little band of heroes fail to fully engage this reader’s sympathy and make me care very much about any of their fates or successes, whether they are exploited humans or the underdog superheroes.