RogerBW's Blog

Bad Dog, Ashley Pollard 04 February 2018

2017 military science fiction, first of a series. Gunnery Sergeant Tachikoma is about to have a very bad day… repeatedly.

Disclaimer: I read this novel in its early form in 2014, and offered feedback. I also count Ashley as a friend.

Which is why I'll get the brutal bit out of the way first: the writing is horrid. Verbs don't agree with their subjects, sentences break apart and re-form half-way through, and every few paragraphs I'm pulled up by some new infelicity. It's always possible to work out what's going on, but it makes for brutal breaks in the flow of the story.

All of which is a great shame, because the storytelling is excellent. The primary viewpoint is Tachikoma's, and she comes over as a plausible person (though naturally very much in the Marine mindset). She finds herself in a situation distressingly like the one in Edge of Tomorrow – though I know that the first draft was done before that film came out – in that she's trying to resolve a situation, failing and getting killed, then finding herself starting again and trying to do better next time. Other characters, by the rules of this Groundhog Day game, can't get as much development, but are reasonably consistent as far as they go.

Worldbuilding is an odd mix of solid and thin: there seems to be a Confederated rather than a United States now in 2017, but nobody thinks about how we got from here to there. After what must have been a fairly wrenching change, it's odd that there doesn't seem to have been any modification of Marine or Navy practice and mindset from the present day. These Marines wear powered armour of the physically plausible sort, giving protection and enhanced carrying capacity but with the penalty of weight and limited power supply; but this isn't a book about how awesome powered armour is, it's a book about military people, emphasis on both words, dealing with an unexpected situation and trying to keep themselves and their buddies alive.

Good stuff if the writing doesn't bother you, and clearly there are many people whom it doesn't bother. To be followed by Strike Dog.

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