cover image The Red: First Light

The Red: First Light

Linda Nagata. S&S/Saga, $9.99 mass market (432p) ISBN 978-1-4814-4093-6

This powerful military SF trilogy opener (a Nebula Award nominee in its earlier self-published incarnation) is set in a near future where defense contractors call the shots. “There needs to be a war going on somewhere” at all times to keep the military machine fueled. Lt. James Shelley is an anti-war protestor who only joined the Army to avoid prison. To everyone’s surprise, he has a talent for battle and now commands a squadron of high-tech infantry. After a serious combat injury, Shelley’s body is augmented by machines, and soon he starts to believe that someone or something is watching over him via his satellite downlink, feeding him hunches that bring victory or at least minimize losses. His men insist that he is like King David, spoken to by God, but he suspects he’s dealing with something slightly more mundane: a spontaneously generated web intelligence that Shelley calls the Red, whose motives are unknown. Nagata (The Bohr Maker) writes very good action sequences and the book moves well, even when its protagonist is pinned to a bed and relearning how to use his body. Shelley is a nicely developed character with an interesting voice. Fans of thoughtful, cynical, and not particularly jingoistic military SF will love this book. (July)