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Ironclads by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Published by Solaris on November 7, 2017

About 20 years after Brexit, England becomes an American territory, giving the U.S. a convenient military base and a stepping stone to Europe, where ideological conflicts are translating into military conflicts, primarily with the Swedes and Finns, collectively known as the Nords. Sgt. Ted Regan and his two buddies (Sturgeon and Franken) are asked by a corporate Scion to find the Scion’s cousin, who disappeared on the front, the weaponized armor that encased him having gone dark. Since the military does whatever powerful corporations ask, the three grunts are separated from their assignments and sent to the front where they will carry out a rescue mission.

They are joined by a Brit named Lawes and a corporate tech guru named Cormoran who flies drones and hacks systems. Eventually they’re joined by a Finnish bioweapon named Viina. Needless to say, the mission is quickly FUBAR and the reader is treated to some battle scenes that are more intelligent than those served up by typical military sf. The soldiers struggle along until they discover just why they were tasked for this seemingly impossible mission.

Apart from the usual tech that attracts readers to military science fiction, there are some clever ideas here, including the notion of breeding and releasing millions of little bugs to block satellite views of troop movements and defenses. This is a relatively short, fast-moving novel, that tells an uncluttered story. Characters are adequately developed and Adrian Tchaikovsky’s prose is sharp.

The point of Ironclads is that most modern wars (and presumably future wars) are fought to advance corporate interests rather than national interests, and that politicians and military leaders are easily manipulated by corporations. That point has been made by other science fiction writers in more detail than Ironclads, but the theme is a good one, and it gives the entertaining story some bite.


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