An interesting new SF war novella with a twist
Scions have no limits
Scions do not die
And Scions do not disappear
Sergeant Ted Regan has a problem. A son of one of the great corporate families, a Scion, has gone missing at the front. He should have been protected by his Ironclad – the lethal battle suits that make the Scions masters of war – but something has gone catastrophically wrong.
Now Regan and his men, ill-equipped and demoralised, must go behind enemy lines, find the missing Scion, and uncover how his suit failed. Is there a new Ironcladkiller out there? And how are common soldiers lacking the protection afforded the rich supposed to survive the battlefield of tomorrow?
A new book from Adrian Tchaikovsky is always something to be cheered. Ironclads is something a little different — although, given Tchaikovsky’s growing body of varied work, this is perhaps something that we can now expect? Ironclads is an interesting re-imagining of the world: corporations have come to dominate the new world, but supernatural elements of the old world are pushing back. A squad of American soldiers are thrown into a special mission, and everything they thought they knew about the war turns out to have been wrong…
The story moves relatively quickly, as we’re introduced to the squad of soldiers recruited for a special mission: find a missing Scion. With scant details, the soldiers set out into the wilds, and must attend with beasts of myth, traitors, and a situation that quickly becomes FUBAR.
It’s tricky to review this novella — as is always the case with shorter fiction, giving too much detail about the plot will spoil everything. Needless to say, this book is imaginative, interesting throughout, and the characters are engaging and well-rounded. Tchaikovsky’s gift for description and imagery is on full display, whether he is describing a particular member of Regan’s crew, or the final confrontation that brings the novella to a fantastic, epic close.
“He had brown teeth, huge in his thin face, like he’d been designed to gnaw through cables we’d find we needed later.”
The author also sprinkles in some commentary on our own time, particularly the American response to refugees:
“They had camps there, outside the city, and it looked like the soldiers there – gov and corp – were very keen that this tide of displaced humanity didn’t wash up on their doorstep. It reminded me of back home, how every so often there’d be some great cause, some refugees from one of the little wars in Asia or Africa, say, and everyone would be like, Oh, why don’t they do something? And we’d wire a few dollars over and feel good about ourselves. Only, when New Orleans went under for good, somehow that was totally different. Franken and me, we were on crowd containment detail for that one. I got shot in Mexico the next year, and I still preferred that to the orders we got in Louisiana.”
Even here, Tchaikovsky injects some cheeky humour, at an earlier point describing the camps:
“So the Nords had these camps. You know what? I’ve seen worse camps. They looked neat and orderly, kind of like you’d expect. For all I knew, Ikea was mass-producing a flat-pack lean-to called the ‘Fükd’ just for the occasion. It was still a camp, though. It was never going to be a happy place.”
If you have read Adrian Tchaikovsky’s work before, then I highly recommend this novella as well — it has all the hallmarks of what makes the author’s work so popular and, most recently, award-winning. His work is always engaging, very well-written, and offers new twists on popular sci-fi and/or fantasy tropes. His work is never boring, and always feels fresh.
Ironclads is published by Solaris Books in November 2017.
Also on CR: Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky (2012); Guest Posts on “Nine Books, Six Years, One Stenwold Maker”, “The Art of Gunsmithing — Writing Guns of the Dawn“, “Looking for God in Melnibone Places” and “Eye of the Spider”; Excerpt from Guns of the Dawn; Reviews of Empire in Black and Gold, Guns of the Dawn and Spiderlight