Reviewed in the United States on September 25, 2021
Sentenced to War tells the story of Reverent R Pelletier, known to most as just ‘Rev’, a young man of 17yrs who has his whole future ahead of him. He has a job already set out for him in his Step-Fathers guild, the Benevolent Order of Crystal Technicians. However, one afternoon, he stupidly tries to impress his girlfriend, and gets into a fight, and whilst he doesn’t get caught for fighting, he does get stopped when trying to flee the scene.
This story is set in a futuristic, dystopian universe, one in which humanity has settled many worlds, having moved off of Earth, and technology has also changed significantly. In this universe, Humanity is struggling in a war against a superior Alien race called the Centaur, and for this reason, anyone caught breaking the law is generally punished by a term of conscription in the Union Marine Corps.
Initially Rev believes that he will be fine on several different aspects, his offence is only a class 13 offence, and these are not on the Conscription list, he is only 17, and therefore can’t be conscripted, and, he has a job lined up in an organisation that is important to the war effort. Unfortunately, things don’t go Rev’s way. (Otherwise this would have been a very short story, and the cover would have made no sense!)
Rev is sentenced to the Pegasus Union Marine Corp, and finds that he has a couple of options open to him, some that leave him a Grunt for over 20yrs of service, but not in the line of fire, or, the option of DC – Direct Combat, and only 3yrs of Service, if you live of course, but the survival rate is not very high.
Rev of course takes the DC route, hoping he will not only survive the training (otherwise it’s back to the long route home and 20+yrs as a Grunt), but more to the point, survives the next several years as a Marine.
It is here that I should really point out that the story, the writing and the Characters are just exceptional. There are hundreds of books in which a young guy gets dragged into military service, and goes off to war, so if you are going to write one, you have to make it stand out, and worth reading, and that is exactly what Brazee and Chaney have done.
The Characters are incredibly real, the young, headstrong man that Rev is. The initial fight scene, in which he knew it was wrong, but also knew he would lose his girl if he didn’t stick up for her, the entire situation was so realistic, even the flow-on after. Rev then thinks he will be ok, until the Judge does otherwise, because that is how court goes – and having been a Cop who has worked in the courts, I have seen very similar situations happen (Literally teenagers going to jail for stupid things because a Judge is on a crusade). But Rev also knows he made a mistake, and he has to fix it. The processing in the Marines, the initial meeting of each of the other recruits, is all so real (Seriously, flashbacks to academy days!!) The dialogue, interactions and interplay between each of the characters is brilliant.
I don’t want to extend too far into the story, or give too much away, but needless to say, this story continues on with a phase of training, before they are moved out into the universe, and live operations.
During this time, Rev meets a group of Recruits and that group make a pact to get together at the end of their term.
Some of them are with Rev in his team, one in particular becomes Rev’s best friend in a way, Tomiko Reiser.
As a part of their training, they are augmented, upgraded, (I’ll let you read about that, don’t want to spoil the fun), but one aspect of it, is they get an A.I. implanted in their heads, and this provides for some hilarious interactions.
Initially, Rev is reluctant to use it, and the Marine can actually set the level of ‘Intelligence’ the AI has, as in it only operates at 20% capacity etc.
Rev and his AI have an amusing relationship, and when it starts to tell him jokes (OMG, the jokes are a mixture of ‘Dad’ jokes, and others that if you are listening to this in public, you will embarrass yourself when you laugh out loud). Overall this book has a wicked sense of humour, and it really adds an extra dimension to the story. I will say that it is not an overbearing or continuous stream of humour like some Mil Sci-Fi stories have chosen to go with, it is a more ‘discrete’ humour, but the points it happens you will be on the floor in tears.
The other side of that, is that this is a powerfully emotive story, one in which none of the main characters are safe. The Authors have no problem with killing any of their characters (or maiming them), and you will be reading/listening along, when you have to stop and go back to make sure you heard/read right, that a particular favourite character was just eliminated by enemy fire.
The combat scenes in this book are nothing short of brutal, chaotic, and viciously realistic. They have been written by someone that knows the utter adrenaline fueled fear, chaos, elation, terror, at times hope, and at other times despair of combat.
Whilst I have not been in military combat, I have been in the middle of riots, and had to fight for my life on a couple of occasions when I was in the Police, and can in some small way, empathise with the situation, and the scenes in these books are breathtaking in their realism, totally engaging, you won’t be able to put them down.
As well as the extraordinary combat scenes, there has been remarkable effort put into the world building as well, with each of the different locations that Rev and his crew go to being described with such brilliant detail, and fantastic depth, really bring them to life so that as they are moving through these places, you feel like you can see them, you get to look through their eyes, and visualise the worlds they see, as well as the enemies they are hunting, and on occasions, the people they meet, those that they may be trying to save. The world building in this story is just masterful.
This book has so many fantastic things that really set it apart from the others in the same genre. The combat scenes are an obvious given, they are just outstanding. But the thing that really makes this book worth reading, is the incredibly powerful Character Driven Story, because the Character work in this book is absolutely sensational, and makes this series a true standout.
I have already finished Book 2, and I am about to start Book 3, the series just keeps getting better, and the Character Building only gets stronger, in what is a gritty, emotive and powerful story. This is one series that should NOT be missed!!