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‘Terms of Enlistment (Frontlines):’ Book Review

It took a little while to get hooked into this story.  Terms of Enlistment promises to be an action-packed thriller but starts off more like a military memoir.  Sure, that assumes a fair amount of exciting stuff can happen, but I was beginning to despair that it would all be portrayed from a safe distance, instead of sticking me right into the thick of things.

I needn’t have worried.

We follow the journey of Andrew Greyson, a welfare slum-rat who has made the inevitable decision to join the military to escape his bleak circumstances, into basic training and his early career in the military.  Set in 2108, Earth has seen better days.  Political divisions are now interstellar, andthere is a perpetual need for new military recruits.  Of course, Greyson’s naïve expectation of serving out his term of service, collecting his pension, and retiring to a small, out-of-the-way corner of the galaxy are quickly dispelled.

Greyson is an annoyingly whiny teenager for about two seconds but quickly turns into a responsible, engaging, and very likeable guy.  His motivation is simple.  Get out of the slum he’s grown up in, and, even better, get off the used-up rock that Earth has become.  He gains an additional motivation in basic training that he follows when he can . . . find a way to be with the cute girl.

Greyson’s love interest, Halley, a military grunt like himself, is a capable, level-headed girl not swayed by over-sentimentality.  Their relationship is appealing, yet practical.  They want to be together but also want to pursue their respective careers.  Kloos makes an effort to keep their stories intertwined but doesn’t follow the “they-must-be-together-at-all-costs” route.

Marko Kloos achieves a story that stays firmly rooted in its main character’s voice.  Exposition that may initially seem excessive, the constant detailing of military protocol, equipment, uniforms, and insignia actually gives a sense of veracity to Greyson’s character.  He is a military grunt, and he tells his story with all the attention to such detail in which a military grunt would naturally revel.

Terms is about stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire.  It loosely touches on issues around poverty, over-population, military control of civilians, etc. but doesn’t attempt any easy resolutions to these problems.  Greyson is certainly not in a place to affect much change in his own circumstances, and, likewise, the author doesn’t attempt to solve problems that are out of his reach.

I liked that Kloos depicts a society and, more specifically, a military where gender issues are largely erased.  Girls are included in everything, they perform as well or better than their male counterparts, and Kloos leaves unnecessary explanations alone.

Kloos also does a nice job of mixing realistic military detail with futuristic elements.  Overall, the science fiction, while not necessarily breaking any new ground, was entertaining and easily envisioned. 

Terms of Enlistment might not exactly make any Earth (or terraformed planet) shattering statements but is sure is a hell of a fun ride.  It’s a little bit Aliens, a little bit Starship Troopers, with overtures of Elysium and Jurassic Park thrown in for spice, and all told from the perspective of the guy you’d expect to get red-shirted in the first chapter.

I am, as we speak, downloading the second installment in the Frontlines series, Lines of Departure.  Bring on the [SPOILER ALERT] bugs!!

[Marko Kloos is currently working on Angles of Attack, the third installment in the Frontlines series.  Yay!]

Audiobook Review:

I was very anxious about this audiobook, as I’m aware that Luke Daniels is also the narrator on a number of other books that I’m very interested in listening to (Unwind, Iron Druid Chronicles, the Brilliance Saga),and I was eagerly hoping that this listen would be a sign of good things to come.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Mr. Daniels is an excellent narrative performer.  His style is very open and conversational, and he accomplishes a nice mix of reading and performance.   I think a lot of credit for my staying with the story through the first few chapters was due to Mr. Daniel’s ability to make the more expository sections vibrant and engaging.  He was particularly good at conveying the main character’s wry, sarcastic humor, as well as carrying me into the serious action bits with excellent pacing and force of emotion.

A minor complaint, a common one regarding the portrayal the opposite sex, is that Mr. Daniel’s “girly” voice is a bit too stereotypically simpering at times.  To be fair, his portrayal of a number of the secondary male characters, as well, also delved a bit too far into caricatures . . . dumb jocks, rednecks, etc.  Every drill sergeant in the story had the same Full Metal Jacket persona that is so pervasive of all military stories.  An understandable choice, but a bit repetitive after you’ve met the fourth such drill sergeant in as many chapters.

Additionally, his voice sounded a bit too old for the main character in this particular book.  This was most notable in the opening chapter, as our main character is having very typically “teenager” conversations with his parents.

Again, these minor concerns did not significantly impact my enjoyment of Terms of Enlistment and certainly do not reflect poorly on Mr. Daniel’s overall skills.  I am looking forward to hearing more from him.


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