They said the war would turn us into light...
The Light Brigade: it's what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back...different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief--no matter what actually happens during combat.
Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don't sync up with the platoon's. And Dietz's bad drops tell a story of the war that's not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think it is.
Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero--or maybe a villain; in war it's hard to tell the difference.
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I can't even tell you how big an impression this book made on me! But let's start with the basics, as always.
The main character is Dietz, and since I wasn't sure about their gender until the end of the book, and I don't know if that was meant this way or I just missed it (i totally could have missed it), I won't reveal it here either, just in case. Dietz enlists in the army after losing their family to the Martian attack. They are a bitter but caring person who wants to protect the people they love. The character arc is very compelling, as the reader gets to observe the gradual change of Dietz's beliefs and goals as they discover more and more information about the war. There are also quite a lot of people they serve with, and sometimes I got lost as to who was who, but the author did a great job keeping track of them, considering the nature of the story.
The plot is so original and fascinating! It's non-linear, all of the events happen out of order as time travel is involved. It requires a lot of skill to pull off something like that, and Kameron Hurley did it brilliantly.
The world-building is done just right to be immersive. The world is ruled by six big corporations, and people are divided into a class system: citizens, who have the most privileges, access to health care and best living conditions, residents, who have only some of the privileges and ghouls, who basically have no rights. It's possible but extremely tough to move into a higher class, and joining the army is the only way for ghouls like Dietz. Citizenship is, in fact, belonging to a certain corp, not a country. The corps control access to information and posses advanced technology, the most impressive of which is probably their ability to turn people into light and send them anywhere, including off world.
I couldn't put the book down! There is so much in it that I liked: the plot twists, the complexity and ingenuity of its structure, the clever observations about human nature, the intimate first person narration, the flawed protagonist who gets a chance to grow, the criticism of some of the real-world issues, the originality. It's a great and well-written story, but what made it stand out most was the way it was told.
The book explores the meaninglessness and cruelty of war, poses questions about inequality, class system, capitalism, exploitation, manipulation and brainwashing. It's gory, which I think is suitable for a story about war, and at the same time human connection and taking care of each other are a crucial part of it. I really enjoyed the author's style and her unique voice.
You might enjoy the book if you like military and time travel sci-fi, mind-bending thrillers, non-linear stories and don't mind gore / violence / death.
Kameron Hurley is the author of The Light Brigade, The Stars are Legion and the essay collection The Geek Feminist Revolution, as well as the award-winning God’s War Trilogy and The Worldbreaker Saga. Hurley has won the Hugo Award, Locus Award, Kitschy Award, and Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer. She was also a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Nebula Award, and the Gemmell Morningstar Award. Her short fiction has appeared in Popular Science Magazine, Lightspeed and numerous anthologies. Hurley has also written for The Atlantic, Writers Digest, Entertainment Weekly, The Village Voice, LA Weekly, Bitch Magazine, and Locus Magazine. She posts regularly at KameronHurley.com.