The Red by Linda Nagata is a fun, action-packed take on near-future military science fiction. And it’s best that you go into it with as little advance knowledge as possible (as I did). So, while this isn’t going to be a long review by any means, if that’s the approach that you would want to take, know that it’s a book that I very much enjoyed and enthusiastically recommend that you read, but you shouldn’t read what I have to say below.
Still with me?
OK, what I really like about The Red is that it ambushes the unsuspecting reader. The book starts out as a fairly typical, near-future military science fiction book. It has a bit of mechanized armor, some cool cyber-integration, and it has a lot of fair bit of deeper messaging about the dangers of a military-industrial complex where the private billionaires have taken all decision making related to war from the people, important discussion on the toll all this takes on soldiers with some drug addiction thrown in, and some interesting ideas about criminal-justice, consequences and such. There’s also a nice bit of romance where an old love comes in conflict with all the complications of life and military. Plus it throws in a good bit of terrifying Texas independence crap (note, I was born and raised in Texas, but managed to escape nearly 20 years ago).
All of that makes for a great, fun book that has just enough message to make it extra interesting.
But The Red throws in a big twist. The protagonist apparently has some really accurate instincts that protect him and the soldiers around him. So much that there are ‘jokes’ about it being messages from God. We eventually learn that this instinct is a message from the outside, but it appears to be coming from some form of AI that lives in the internet and can access the soldier through his integrated skullcap, and the top minds in the military have no idea how this is happening. Now an AI itself isn’t such a different thing in military science fiction, even when combined with all the cool stuff above. But what I really enjoy about this particular AI is that it appears to be a marketing program that has ‘evolved’ and that the goal seems to be about improving things and people’s lives. Because, after all, happy, successful people spend more money. This makes for a really cool contrast to cynicism of everything else going on in the book and makes a great read into a truly memorable book.
The Red is the first book in a trilogy, so things don’t move all that far, and I fully expect that there are more twists to come in the future books and resolutions are not exactly what one would expect – that’s called good writing, and after reading The Red, it’s what I would expect to continue in to the other books of the trilogy.
Anyway, to bring this around full circle, The Red is a great book, the rest of the trilogy is out there and it’s criminal that I haven’t read them yet. So, both of us need to get reading.
The Red Trilogy
The Red: Amazon
The Trials: AmazonGoing Dark: Amazon