John Ringo, . . Baen, $25 (512pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-3540-6

This latest in a series depicting the invasion of our galaxy by a rapacious alien species isn't as much fun as its predecessors, A Hymn Before Battle and Gust Front. Unfortunately, as Ringo, a military affairs adviser to Fox News, indicates in his afterword, what was escapist entertainment before 9/11 no longer provides the same escape. Five years after the Posleen made their first landings, most of the world lies under their control. By squandering precious resources, the leaders of North America have contained the enemy to several bridgeheads. Major Mike O'Neal commands the only force capable of engaging the Posleen in a war of maneuver. Even "Mighty Mite" O'Neal despairs of victory, as clueless politicians and self-serving "allies" cause his soldiers to die in battle against hopeless odds. We were living in a Golden Age, muses O'Neal, before the Posleen came, and he struggles to prevent his troops from becoming mere killing machines by keeping alive the memory of what was once and might be again. Despite the novel's somber tone, there's hope that the schemes of our supposed allies to see the Posleen and us destroy one another may fail. For thoughtful readers, Ringo raises some tough and highly relevant questions—about the conflicts of interest between Americans and allies who don't share our ideas of individual dignity and freedom and about our leaders' inability to advance beyond narrow parochial interests toward the common good. Military SF fans should be well satisfied. (Apr.)