Set a fair distance in the future, mankind has settled the galaxy. And yet we still fight one another: Alliance versus the Federation. Mitchell ‘Ares’ Williams is a war hero and currently the hottest thing driving military enlistment. He’s paraded from world to world, talk show to signing event, telling his battle stories to starry-eyed youngsters dreaming of combat and glory. Also, he’s got a price on his head by the opposition. After surviving yet another assassination attempt, he is badly injured and perhaps a little mentally damaged. He keeps hearing voices that tell him he must find the Goliath, the long-lost initial FTL ship Earth ever made.
This was an immensely satisfying book. This is what military scifi should be. Fascinating characters (both male and female): check! Intriguing, consuming plot: check! Enough science in my fiction to make me believe this could some day come true: check! Cool tech and weapons: check! Yes, indeed, I was mightily impressed with this story and didn’t want to put it down.
Mitchell Williams is a conflicted character and that made him easy to connect with. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that he was part of a critical and intense battle that left all his comrades dead. The military totes him around showing him off to the population like more of a war trophy instead of a war hero. Mitchell doesn’t feel like a hero because he knows things didn’t go down as they were reported in the newsfeed. His handlers and supervisors know it too, but they won’t let him back into the fight, instead believing he is more valuable for driving up enlistment.
There’s plenty of other characters in this story, most of which came with some background and a purpose. I truly love that there are so many female characters and they almost all of them are plot related. Christine is Mitchell’s handler after the assassination attack, keeping a tight leash on him. Millie is captain of the Riggers, a rag tag crew of military personnel who hit the end of their rope in one way or another and who were consigned to patrol the outer most edges of settled space. Both these ladies have their own personal goals, actions that relate to the storyline, and just enough past events to fill out their character. With all that said, here is my one tiny criticism: nearly all the women in this book have a thing for Mitchell. He’s a handsome man, but aren’t there other handsome men or perhaps some lesbians in space?
The plot is primarily military scifi, but also with a touch of time travel. There’s this long-standing war between the Alliance and the Federation. All of society has been militarized in some way to assist in the war effort. The time travel element doesn’t come into play until the second half of the book, so I won’t say much on it other than to say that it is well done.
I really didn’t want to put this book down. I kept finding little ways to prolong my listening time so that I finished this book in 2 big chunks of blissful (if chore-filled) listening. I do believe Forbes has raised the bar for military scifi.
The Narration: Jeffrey Kafer has long been a favorite narrator of mine. He does not disappoint in this his performance here. As always, Kafer has distinct male and female voices for all the characters. I especially appreciated how he imbued each and every character with emotion. He made a very good Mitchell Williams.