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War Dogs   by Greg Bear

Read: 2016-02-12 Reviewed: 2016-02-12
Re-read factor:

The opening paragraph on the first page tells you he got off Mars, and since the whole story is told from the first-person viewpoint of a soldier in peril on said planet, suspense is dead at the outset.

The landing of a squad of special services soldiers on Mars goes awry, and the team struggle to survive. By chances, they come across another team who met a similar fate, and a third-generation native of the planet, who takes the lot to a disused mine which is actually a fragment of a moon which once fell to the surface (this is the only bit of interesting science fiction in the book). The team are hemmed in by an advanced race, and after a bit of in-fighting and liaison with some indigenous semi-intelligence make a run for freedom and are saved in the act by reinforcements which magically arrive from Earth. Once back the main protagonist is interrogated and seemingly incarcerated, but the ending is so short and shrift that every possibility is left open. The interrogation of the surviving protagonist is actually interleaved throughout the work with the description of the action, a writing device which the book could have done well without.

A bigger story is that Earth is ruled by a strange advanced species (`Gurus’) which nobody knows much about, but they themselves are under attack from another species using Mars as a bridge-head; earthlings are recruited to fight the Guru war. All of which is mostly irrelevant to the story, without which it would again do well.

The only literary redemption is that the prose puts across quite nicely a sense of chaos: that nobody knows or is prepared for what will happen next, or of who the good and bad people are. Otherwise this classes as not much more than a young adult yarn, and is far too short to do justice to the layers and expanded canvases on which the story structure has been conceived; an example of `Method’ story construction with punitive realisation.

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