Review: An Officer’s Duty

Posted: December 20, 2013 by in Books that are Mediocre (3/5 single_star) Meta: Jean Johnson, Military SF, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction

I made the mistake of starting AN OFFICER’S DUTY (Amazon) before reading the book that came before: A SOLDIER’S DUTY (Amazon). I was completely lost and from what I read, the PoV character Ia was an insufferable know-it-all so I stopped. It reminded me too much of the annoying Kris Longknife books, only with more infodumps. As a result I wasn’t interested, but with Steve’s prodding I tried again–from the beginning this time.

In SOLDIER we learn that Ia is a precognitive and when she was 15 years old saw the end of humanity itself. From that moment forward she dedicated her life to taking the steps necessary to prevent the coming apocalypse when an alien race would wipe out mankind.

So she joined the military. Because, really, it was the best way to get done what she wanted. Plus, a Marine precog? Yeah, imagine how those fights go.

Anyway. In OFFICER Ia continues her plans to manipulate future events, and during her leave she visits her family and prepares them for the future. Then, after her leave is over, because of her field commission she must attend officer academy. It’s all a part of her long-range goal of captaining a ship on Border Patrol and setting herself up to where she can ruin the alien Salik race’s plans to start a war with the Alliance. But when she gets to the academy she runs into a grey spot in her psychic predictions: her own roommate, the handsome and brilliant Meyun Harper.

The premise is actually kinda cool: a space prophet. That’s basically what Ia is. She’s predicting the end of humanity in three hundred years and the arrival of a savior. But in order to prevent the end of mankind certain events must take place, and the only one who can make sure they happen is her. But in order for her to do that she must first hone the necessary skills and place herself in positions of authority. This means joining the Marines, spending years on tours of duty, making a name for herself, strengthening some powers, manipulating people, etc. She has a Big Plan and Jean Johnson’s Theirs Not To Reason Why series documents Ia’s execution of that plan.

ANN OFFICER's DUTY reads like a string of events that eventually leads up to an exciting and over-the-top crazy ridiculous climax. But it still fell flat.

It’s interesting, no question. The fights are cool and unique, especially those that take place on the space ships; the interactions between family, friends, and co-workers felt genuine; comments on different alien cultures and physiology are interesting; and it’s easy to understand why Ia makes the choices she does. Johnson’s prose is uncluttered and easy to read, Ia’s PoV is straightforward and moves quickly (sometimes too quickly glossing over events, but there are years to cover in each book), and the tension is enough to pull readers along.

However, OFFICER is a frustrating book to read. Maybe it’s me because there are people who do like (unlike me) the Kris Longknife books–those kind of people will love this series. Or maybe it’s because of the excessive SciFi/military information (i.e., we had to learn all the ammo types in her Basic Training in SOLIDER–and that’s only one example of the plethora of infodumps). Or maybe it was frustrating because Ia’s abilities make her too perfect, and since she’s perfect, her holier-than-thou attitude grates my nerves. We’re talking some seriously melodramatic dialogue/monologues as a result–and she says this stuff over and over. It’s hard to sympathize with a person like this.

Or perhaps I’m too much of a stickler for a recognizable plot. Ia doesn’t broadcast her plans more than the bare minimum and it’s frustrating because I don’t know where the story is headed, except a string of events that eventually lead up to an exciting and over-the-top crazy ridiculous climax (can anyone say deus ex machina?). How could one person have all of these abilities? The woman is super human, there’s no way she can lose. Where’s the tension in that?

I’m currently 50 pages into the sequel, HELLFIRE (Amazon), and it’s high time this girl ran into real problems, because no one is this perfect. But then again, she is a space prophet, so what do I know?

  • Recommended Age: 15+
  • Language: Made-up words only
  • Violence: It's military SF, so guns and blood and severed limbs
  • Sex: Innuendo and implied (in case you're worried this is a romance because of the author's previous works, I'm here to tell you that it most emphatically is not a romance novel)

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