I’ll admit I’m a total bookworm. I will happily get through a novel a week. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of military fiction. So, I thought I would share some of the authors I have found and let you know what I like about them. All of these books can be found on Amazon…
Phillip Richards is a serving British Infantry Colour Sergeant. He enlisted at 17 and has served in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. He has also been a recruit instructor at Catterick.
I have been following his series ever since his first book C.R.O.W. The series revolves around the character Andy Moralee. Book one sees him join his first unit, in the Dropship Infantry (space Paras), fighting on behalf of the European Union. The first book is a Tom’s eye view of a conventional Infantry campaign against the Chinese. Subsequent books see Andy promoted to Lance Corporal and join the RECCE Platoon to fight in a counter insurgency. The series is currently at 5 books.
What I love about these books is that although they are sci-fi, it’s not all robots and laser guns. Richards has really captured the essence of section level Infantry warfare. The whole environment is realistic and gripping. The soldiers don’t fight for Queen and Country; they fight for the bloke to the left and the right of them. You see all of the ups and downs of life as an Infanteer and the combat scenes really accurately portray the confusion of battle. Despite the technology, warfare still comes down to putting an Infanteer with a rifle in front of the enemy and cutting him loose to do what he does best.
The quality of the writing is very high. When confusion descends and cohesion breaks down during battle Richards still manages to clearly and concisely describe the setting and movement without losing the excitement of the fast-changing action.
These are great, soldier-centric novels which really capture British Army culture and propel it into a totally new environment without losing the essence of what makes the Infantry what it is.
Peter Nealen is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a mixture of books, fiction and non-fiction. In his fiction, he has written the Jed Horn series which are a collection of supernatural thrillers, and the series I will be concentrating on, the American Praetorians. There is also the stand alone novel Kill Yuan.
American Praetorians is set in a near future where the central character Jeff Stone is part of a team of Security Contractors for Praetorian Security doing a maritime security gig on a freighter in the Gulf of Aden. A major US base gets overrun on the Horn of Africa and Praetorian gets hired to rescue the hostages because the US Government can’t afford to send their own troops. What follows is an exciting tour de force of the Praetorian team tearing through a well organised group of terrorists. Subsequent novels deal with Praetorian carrying out other roles in Iraq and winding up a drug cartel, making more and more enemies as they go. The novels go out to book 5 which is slated to be the last for the team as they have been through a lot in a short time frame and are getting burned out. Although Nealen hasn’t ruled out writing about Jeff Stone in the future.
Where these novels excel is in their realism. The guys get tired and dirty. They make mistakes and things don’t always go their way. The realism, like Phillip Richards’ books, comes from the fact that the author has served in the military and is writing about subject matter he is intimately familiar with. There is no high-tech wizardry here, just a small team relying on skill and training to get through it all alive.
I have enjoyed these novels and have been following Nealen’s blog to see when the next one will be out. He is very generous with early release of chapters from books he is still writing.
These are great books and you should give them a go.
John Birmingham is an alternative history author. In his Axis of Time trilogy he explores the effect of a near future military force on the events of WW2. The basic plot is that a near future military fleet appears between the two sides at the Battle of Midway.
I really enjoyed these book because they did not just concentrate on the technological impact but also on the cultural impact, in particular issues of gender and race. Mini spoiler, the technology doesn’t only get to just one of the protagonists in the war. There is also the fun element of Prince Harry appearing as a Captain in the SAS.
Patrick Tilley is the author of the epic Amtrak Wars books. The books are focused on a character called Steve Brickman. Brickman is a “Tracker” a future descendant of the US Military personnel who survive nuclear war in underground bunkers. The series covers the Tracker attempts at pacifying the surface which is populated by the Mutes, the descendants of those who survived on the surface. The story has the feel of a western, with the Trackers as the US Cavalry and the Mutes as the Native Americans, but is set in a very different background where the clash of cultures and technology is enormous fun.
This is going to be a chunky one as Jack Campbell has written 3 different series of books. I will deal with each in turn.
Jack Campbell is a nom-de-plume for John G. Hemry, a retired US Naval officer.
The basis from these books is that after a war which has lasted for generations a fleet gets ambushed and all of the senior leadership is killed. Just before this an escape pod is recovered with John Geary on board in stasis. Given that he is several hundred years old he is automatically in charge due to his seniority. The series covers the fleet’s journey as they try to get back to friendly space. Along the way Geary teaches them the tactical acumen that has been lost due to heavy casualties and attempts to pull them away from unpleasant practices they have fallen in to like not taking prisoners and killing civilians with orbital bombardment.
What sets these books apart is their focus on the human factors. Just as much as Geary is adjusting to being “in the future” his contemporaries are adjusting to how things used to be done. Also of merit is the description of battles in space that are full of tension and take into account the very real issues of fighting in a three dimensional environment at near light speeds.
There are also some spin off series dealing with characters who appear along the way in the main story arc.
JAG in Space:
These books are based around a young officer who is thrown into the additional duties role of Ship’s Legal Officer. The short version is that the extra job ends up being far more significant than was initially imagined. The books follow Paul Sinclair as he investigates various issues and defends them in Courts Martial. Like all of Campbell’s books the human element is at the fore and the material culture is not so hugely advanced as to be unrealistic.
Think of A Few Good Men in space.
These novels are set in a somewhat more dystopian future where wars are fought on live TV and ratings are very important. In these novels Sgt Ethan Stark rebels against the system to make a change for the better.
All of the trilogy takes place on the moon and Campbell as usual excels with his treatment of the human factor. A great tale with all of the merits of the other series.
No list of military fiction would be complete without the Daddy of the genre, Bernard Cornwell. A massively prolific, historical fiction author who has covered many different periods and conflicts, he is still a leader in the field.
Richard Sharpe is the Soldier we all want to be. Cornwell’s books now go all the way from Sharpe as a Tom in India, through the Napoleonic Wars into the American Civil War! All of his books are impeccably researched and bring the period vividly to life. Perfect to load onto a kindle to plough through on tour or exercise.
Nathaniel Starbuck is cut from very similar cloth the Sharpe. Great stories set in the American Civil War, covering the adventures of a Northerner in a Southern Regiment.
Cornwell’s take on the King Arthur legend as seen through the eyes of Derfel, a low born warrior who rises to power through his martial prowess. Great fun and, like all of Cornwell’s books, really manages to capture the period. Plenty of action and blood and guts!
The Last Kingdom:
This is the one as seen on TV. Don’t let that put you off though. Cornwell’s Uhtred is a proper lad, and like the King Arthur books this is a real blood, guts and shagging romp through a turbulent period of British history.
Another great Cornwell hero. Thomas of Hookton heads over to France to fight as an archer during the Hundred Years War. Hookton, rises through his skills on the battlefield, as well as the normal Cornwell, fight, loot, booze and shag! Well worth a read with a very clever back story linked to the holy grail.
Cornwell has also written a number of stand-alone novel which are well worth a read:
– The Fort
– Fallen Angels
– Fools and Mortals
– Sea Lord
Those are all the ones I can think of for now. If you have any authors you think are worth checking out let me know in the comments.
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