Review: Iron Dragoons
Military Science Fiction is a sub-genre that I don’t very often find myself reading. Not that I don’t like it, or even that I think I might not like it, but I just haven’t read much of it. Kind of the same way that I don’t very often find myself singing while riding the city bus. Not that the other patrons on the bus might not like my warbling voice or that I might not enjoy such an experience… I just don’t do it all that much. So this was a bit of a departure for me, but I got a copy of the ebook for free from the author on Facebook, if I remember correctly. Trying to drum up some business and get his name out there, I’d gather, and two cheers for him, I say! I think that more beginning authors should be giving a decent smattering of their stuff away for free. Take note, newbie authors. Especially those that are self-published. Just make sure that what you’re floating in front of people’s noses for FREE is also awesome-sauce, because you absolutely want them to come back and buy your other stuff.
IRON DRAGOONS (Amazon) is the first of what is currently a five-book series, but the author looks to have a large number of other books set in the same universe as well. From all appearances, Mr. Fox has self-published the lot of his material, but he’s also uber prolific. Thus, despite the fact that we normally don’t read/review such books… I find myself reading/reviewing such books today.
Roland Shaw (I kept thinking “Manchurian Candidate! No, wait, that was Raymond”) is turning eighteen. He’s an orphan of the war, he has a job busing tables at a posh restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona, and his time for non-voluntary military service has finally come. He lives in a world that was nearly destroyed by invading aliens. The Earth survived though and now they have access to the jumpgate that the invading aliens left behind. Thus, humanity is spreading out into the galaxy, and everyone on Earth has the opportunity to serve.
Roland’s single choice in the matter is to decide where he wants to serve. He’s given a number of options, after an aptitude test or two, and the choice he makes is to try to join the Armor branch. These soldiers are pushed to their very limits to determine if they’re worthy and able to control the giant mechs that are sent out across the galaxy to do the jobs that others fear. To make a difference.
The story starts with a bang-driven prologue. Several Armor soldiers in their mechs are storming a base of aliens to destroy the mother alien. It’s pretty bang, pow, exciting, but over quickly, and then we drop into the tale of Roland. Throughout Roland’s story, two of the soldiers from the prologue make appearances, as they are trying to form a new group of Armor. The large majority of the story focuses on Roland and his journey through signing up, training, and some minimal battle time. A lot of it is somewhat slow on the scale of progression, but the interesting tech and Roland’s drive to serve the memory of his parents well, kept me reading.
Characterization was somewhat interesting in this one. I don’t think I’ve ever come across someone that has done it quite like this. Nearly all of what I would call character-forming information came through the monologue of the main character. Either out loud to himself or via internal speech. Took me a while to catch on to what the author was doing. The pretty-decent prose hid the otherwise lack of characterization quite well. In fact, I’d place it on par with stuff that I’ve read from Richard Morgan, where I could read and enjoy despite the lack of what is arguably the most important aspect of the story.
There were a few things that I felt the story was lacking. The first was the lack of brotherhood that I expected. My impression of the military is that the feeling of brotherhood is high, and the lack of any development in this regard between Roland and his fellow volunteers confused me. The second was that I didn’t really feel the intensity of the training that Roland was going through. Everyone in the book talked about how crazy difficult it was going to be, but I never really got the sense that it was. This is probably due to the low level of characterization that was present though. The third was the very minimal amount of profanity in the book. There were only a very few words, and though I’m not necessarily complaining that I wanted to see more swearing, it’s just that I expected there to be more swearing because of the tight military focus of the story and the characters portrayed in it.
Throughout the read, I kept waffling between a Mediocre and a Liked rating, but the ending pretty-well clinched it for me. It kind of comes out of left field, and felt like it didn’t really belong, as it wasn’t something that had been built up to. A bit of a disappointment, really. Action, but pointless action, for me.
I don’t know that I can necessarily suggest that others go out and get this book, but I’m not in a position to discourage anyone either. Has anyone else out there read this one? Where would you say it lands? Do the later books in the series get better? And most importantly, are you typically a reader of Military Science Fiction? Drop us a line, if you would.
- Recommended Age: 14+
- Language: Somewhat strong, very infrequently
- Violence: Some mech-violence, but otherwise minimal
- Sex: Nope