Top positive review
Like star wars if it were written by Tom Clancy
Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 2018
I've always loved sci-fi military that was able to keep up with the times and present concepts and characters that are relatable, to real world situations as well as those from certain pop-culture fiction and mainstream mediums. Commonly, an issue I see with the military approach to the science fiction genre is that authors like to take a dated approach to their militaries, taking the bad with the bad, copying a Starship Troopers-esque, Orwelian society and then tacking on one of the most heavily media-covered wars like Vietnam and using it as a springboard for their new universe. Of course with existing franchises, i.e. Star Wars, we have a general platform to work with in world building, and often times the extended universe can only show so much when there are cataclysmic events at play for the main story. The Clone Wars only shows us so much of the Clones until the Jedi have to arrive again and take the spotlight. The Rebellion only has so many successes until victory is won with the help of the Force as a whole, etc.
Galaxy's Edge takes everything that I like about the Clone Wars and condenses it into a more real, yet, far-future scenario that's easy for me to put myself beside. As someone who enjoys memoirs and autobiographies of soldiers, as well as a fan of classic stories and series like Black Hawk Down, Generation Kill, War of the Rats, and many more, I was in for a treat with Legionnaire.
Galaxy's Edge Part 1 on Audible is actually two books; Legionnaire and Galactic Outlaws, for the sake of new readers/listeners, I'll only be posting the review for Legionnaire here.
Immediately, I recommend either format for each pair of books covered by an Audible release. The narrator, RC Bray, is probably one of my favorites to this day, and since I've been seeking out some of his other performances under Podium Publishing. As a narrator his words are easy to listen to and when performing character voices you can tell who's supposed to be who before he even applies the "he said, she said," which is important because you can't tell the difference in a page format when listening to the audiobook. Stellar performance by him, not once did I hear him struggle with a line that I would've otherwise had to reread a few times.
Legionnaire is told through the first-person perspective of Sergeant Chuun, our weary, conflict worn veteran protagonist who has become all but apathetic to the duties he has to perform in service to the Republic. Immediately I fell right in line with this character's way of thinking, as it transcended some romanticized take on life in the military or being a part of something bigger. At the current point in time, Chuun says it himself that he only really cares about the men whom serves with, without the abundance of complaining that you might see from lesser rounded characters. He has his share of complaints throughout the story, but as you'll see throughout the book, almost all of the Legionnaires have a kind of calculated pragmatism that doesn't go as far as to make you uncomfortable with them as fighters. You'll see more action among them in this book than you will drama, but when the drama does happen it isn't entirely out of place or mishandled either.
Within the first scene, you'll get a clear idea of what the Legion is. Think Clone Troopers from Star Wars only remove the "Clone" aspect with natural born, everyday kinds of men that you'd find in today's militaries, complete with the off-the-cuff banter and reserved levels of sheer combat prowess. This is refreshing, because as I said earlier sci-mil authors have a tendency to emulate popularized archetypes for soldiering characters from source material that's a little past its expiration date. Each character has their own mannerisms and dialect, and a number of them, Chuun's squad "Doomsday" specifically, are separated by combat roles or specialization, i.e. sniper, marksman, medic, support gunner, each of whom has their own service tag and given nickname. I especially liked this as it's exactly how I write, being a fan of games like Star Wars: Republic Commando and Ghost Recon.
We don't see any hardcore character stereotypes with the Legionnaires of Victory company, save for maybe one character, Ford, who is dubbed "Wraith" because of his seemingly emotionless qualities and tendency to be present and listening without making it known to his own men. Even still, he isn't an enigma. Ford actually has a leadership position and the way he speaks is characteristic of someone who understands his role. Overall, what we get is a healthy balance of character personalities. Every Leej in the story is badass in their own right but not without their share of weakness, mistakes, or mortality. Each of them are likeable, in fact even the characters that we aren't exactly supposed to like are presented opportunities to get a rise out of the reader in the problems that they represent. Victory Company sets the standard for the kind of unit you want in Galaxy's Edge without being perfect.
Character rant aside, we're quickly introduced to the action early on, and by God is it awesome. The vocabulary used in Chuun's narration isn't overly elegant; metaphors are used sparingly and the somewhat simple language he uses makes them all the more easy to understand, even if he uses terms and phrases that are exclusive to Galaxy's Edge. It comes with its own language that gives you the hint that this is far into the future without too many modern day throwbacks. Combat is realistically depicted, the likes of which you could read about from war diaries, and the internal thought that comes with each action never really breaks the gripping pace.
In each of the scenes, we see cohesive squad tactics at play, some plans working, others going not so well, some needs to improvise, etc. Not once did I find myself calling out any member of Victory Company for a bad call, which normally seems like a sign that maybe things are just working out too well in their favor, but I can guarantee that's not at all the case. This book doesn't let you forget what's at stake, even when things start to look brighter.
Beyond the combat and the characters, Legionnaire does a good job of world building this series and its own various conflicts well within the first few chapters without having to repeat or build upon a whole lot of new information as it comes. Every new idea is introduced on the go, especially in the first Chapter. The Legion isn't perfect and nor is the Republic that it fights under. Chuun addresses the issues with government-appointed leadership within the Legion, and the "bureaucratic overreach" that plagues their operational capacities. This is an especially important obstacle in the story considering Victory Company's mission is to secure support from the indegenous life, Kublarens or "Koobs" for short.
Koobs come with their own quirks and characteristics, and I have to say that they're easily one of my favorite parts of Legionnaire. Their description isn't specific enough for you to have to wrack your brain with, but enough to get the idea. I won't quote other books just yet that have tried to paint a mental picture of a species and ended up using too many details that ended up making them look goofy in my mind. GE doesn't do that, thankfully. Koobs are simplisticly explained to be reptilian, frog-like, with click-croaking language that is written quite well into their dialogue. Koobs also represent a kind of local population one would find while invading or expeding through a country; some like the Republic, some don't, and no one can really tell which in the moment. This is a straightforward story, but pay close attention when any new character is on screen to kind of get a better idea of what's going on. You might surprise yourself with being able to call things out as you see them.
Without spoiling the ending too much, if you're looking for a "good guys win," kind of story, take solace in that this is no more of a victory than Black Hawk Down. I hope that's not giving too much away, but there are eight other books in this series. You don't get those without having set some kind of investment in a core cast. I implore you to try out Legionnaire and see how you feel about starting down the road to this series. As I'm reading up on the later books, I myself have a few that I might skip if I ever marathon them on audible again, but may not be for everyone but Legionnaire is something I'm happy to have in my library.
One of the things that I liked most about finishing Legionnaire was the fact that it closed in such a way that allowed for sequels while at the same time leaving things well enough open for interpretation. If you decided that you didn't like Legionnaire by the time you completed it, you can leave it at the epilogue, complete with its own epic tale of unbridled heroism, and still at least feel satisfied at its deeply rooted theme. It's a book that I can repeatedly go back to listening to at any time and still feel the same level of excitement that I did the first time through, and a strong feeling of respect for the characters and the people they represent.