Book Review: 'Glory Boy' by Rick Partlow
Military Science Fiction Novel
Glory Boy by Rick Partlow is a stand-alone book involving Caleb Mitchell of the Birthright series of books. Glory Boy itself came out at the end of 2016.
It takes place in the same universe as Birthright, Northwest Passage, and Enemy of My Enemy, but you don’t have to read those to read this book of Caleb’s experiences during the Tahni war.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of this military sci-fi book?
Strengths of the Book
If you like Starship Troopers and Ender’s Game, you’ll enjoy this book. It is classic military science fiction with a twist—the main character was raised pacifist and rejected by them as he joined the military in an effort to protect them from invading aliens. Yet it is clear at the start of the book, despite being in the military and upgraded to super-soldier, he retains his soul, his humanity.
The combat scenes are detailed without being overloaded with technical and made-up jargon that weighs some other works down.
This book gives a realistic look at how a group like the Amish, Mennonites or Quakers may adapt to technology while retaining their religious beliefs and remaining true to them. No to immersive virtual reality and artificial intelligences, yes to cancer preventing and anti-aging nanites in moderation. No to consumer culture, yes to genetic engineering of crops to survive on alien worlds.
While there are explanations of the technology, history and so forth, it isn’t excessive. I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones. As an engineer, I appreciate comments in the book like “They’re still bound by the same laws of physics as us.” You also get realistic zero-G hand to hand combat with aliens, and no, that is not an oxymoron.
There is no deus ex machina in this book, which is annoying in any book but was absolutely horrible at the end of the Dune series. That the well thought out explanations and plot is consistent throughout the work is a tragedy for sci-fi in general, but it makes Glory Boy stand out. Even the mistakes are understandable without occurring just to propel the story or up the tension.
Weaknesses of the Book
Alien artifacts on Mars conspiracy theory explains faster than light travel via wormholes. Later humans invent FTL on their own that goes anywhere, versus the limited transport network of artificial wormholes.
If some of the detail had been cut here and there, 50 pages could have been cut from this long book.
I like the application of economics to the advanced technologies in the book. Everyone has the cheap version, while the elite super-soldiers receive advanced gear that is rare because of the sheer cost—and the difficulty of making the items or rarity of resources involved to make them are cited. It isn’t just hand-waving to say “We just invented it, so you get it.”
The book balances some criticism of the central character’s beliefs with similar criticism and analysis of the alien’s beliefs. The biggest benefit the author has from the relatively “simple” Friends lifestyle is that the technology they fight with on their world is only somewhat more advanced and not that different (beyond literal firepower) from what would occur if similar fighting happened on Earth.
Glory Boy can be summarized as an embodiment of the saying “good people sleep soundly at night because of the men willing to do violence on their behalf”. Five stars for this thrilling new military sci-fi book.
I received a free copy of this book for review.