Review – The Frontline series, Three SF Novels by Marko Kloos17 October, 2015
The following reviews are as spoiler free as I can make them, while still being able to make a few comments, of the first three books of the Frontline series by Marko Kloos.
The three novels of the Frontline series Terms of Enlistment, Lines of Departure and Angles of Attack) follow Andrew Grayson and his service and adventures in the military of the NAC (North American Confederation) in the early 22nd Century. The future Earth depicted here is a near dystopia, massively overcrowded, with the two primary power blocs, the NAC and the SRA (Sino-Russian Alliance) in a constant state of cold-to-warm war (other nations and groups, for example the EU and SAU -South American Union-, do not show up until the third book and then only in essentially a cameo). It is implied from textual evidence that they was at least one more world war with limited use of weapons of mass destruction, leading to the banning of using such on Earth or the colonies. Yes, colonies, an inexpensive form of FTL travel has been developed and humanity (in the form of NAC and SRA settlements) have spread to the stars.
The colony worlds is where the conflict between the NAC and SRA play out, they also serve as a safety valve for the people of the overcrowded Earth with the NAC running a lottery for colonists (who do not learn how the SRA selects theirs). The other way out is joining the military where a complete service term of five years is rewarded with a large chunk of money, the catch? You have to serve and survive all five years to get any of it. For Grayson, who has grown up in the welfare slums of Boston, it seems like a risk worth taking. Most of Terms of Enlistment is about Grayson’s life immediately before he joins the military, boot camps, early service in the Earth based military and then transfer to fleet service. The last part of the book, with Grayson’s first tour on a ship, totally changes the status quo of the book’s universe.
While is a fun and quick read, but I would have liked some explanation of how the world of the NAC emerged from our world. In a hundred years, the population of the Earth is said to be 20 billion (if I remember correctly) with the NAC home to 3 billion of those, now assuming that the NAC is the US plus Canada and Mexico (implied but never confirmed) whose current combined is about 480m expands 6 times while the global population tread is predicted to stabilize by the end of the century at a much lower total (and that is without the loss of life implied by a world war). Still, if you like military SF, you will probably enjoy the book, I did.
The second book, Lines of Departure, advanced the timeline five years and detailed the new threat faced by the NAC and humanity as a whole, the alien Lankies. I have a few more problems here, partly that I do not believe that the SRA and NAC would keep attacking each other (sparring politically yes) with an existential threat eating its way through Earth’s colonies. Apart from that, it is a good read, more high action and exciting combat with some interesting, if convoluted, political twists. Again, the end of the book is a change to the status quo, Kloos is very good with that pacing.
The third book, Angles of Attack, picks up directly from the second and things keep going from bad to worse for humanity. In many ways, I had the most trouble keeping my suspension of disbelief going with this volume. In the previous book, the good guys pull off an amazing success, something that had seemed impossible (but made perfect sense within the story) but more importantly, could be done again. It is almost not mentioned at all in this book, especially to or by the people who you would think would want to know. The politics also get even stranger. Still, some intense action scenes and I did read all of it. But the change of status quo at the end of this book does not put our heroes in a safe place at all.
Not sure if I will pick up the fourth book when it releases, but these were a fun read and I do not begrudge the time spend on them at all. In many ways, they remind me of the some of the combat SF from the 60s and 70s, especially with the NAC/SRA cold war and the dystopian slums. But if you like action packed, military styled (light) SF, give them a look.