Title: The Light Brigade
Author: Kameron Hurley
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Saga Press
Publication date: March 19 2019
Hardcover: 356 pages
They said the war would turn us into light.
I wanted to be counted among the heroes who gave us this better world.
The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back…different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief—no matter what actually happens during combat.
Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think is going on.
Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero—or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference.
A worthy successor to classic stories like Downbelow Station, Starship Troopers, and The Forever War, The Light Brigade is award-winning author Kameron Hurley’s gritty time-bending take on the future of war.
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Review copy
Format (e- or p-): ebook
Let me just start by saying: The Light Brigade, the new standalone science fiction time-travel novel by Kameron Hurley, is a resounding triumph and already one of my top reads of 2019.
“Stick to the brief.”
In a future a long, long time away, there are no nations anymore, the regions of the world are controlled ran by corporations in the name of #progress. And just like with some nations, you either are a citizen or you are not. Being a citizen comes with power, rights and privileges the “ghouls” can only dream to achieve. Dietz is a ghoul from a corp region that encompasses São Paulo in what was once Brazil. Or at least she used to be – São Paulo and its millions of inhabitants were wiped out of the map by Martian terrorists in something called The Blink. One day the city and its people were there, the next it was all gone. Since then the different corporations have been fighting a gruelling war against Mars. And now a recently developed technology has given the corps an advantage: the ability to teleport its soldiers from one place to the other almost instantaneously.
Dietz then has bought the ideal of the war hook, sink and line. She joins the army for revenge and for a chance. She is earnest in wanting to do better and fight for what she believes is right. After she undergoes the grisly training, she is ready for her first drop on Mars with the battalion she has become so close to.
But her very first drop doesn’t go according to plan. And Dietz finds herself in a different when rather than a different where.
“Take control of the construct.”
At first, completely confused by what happened, Dietz keeps going. But little by little, and drop after mangled drop, she starts to understand what is happening to her. She learns about the top secret light brigade, the soldiers no one wants to talk about, the ones who come back “wrong” just like her. She form alliances and she finally understands the nature of this godforsaken war.
And the more Dietz learns about the world, its politics, its machinations, the more I found things to relate to. And what a mind-bending experience it was.
There is nothing even remotely subtle about The Light Brigade. The action sequences are violent, the violence is bloody, the body horror is graphic and the politics are masticated and delivered on a plate to the reader – there is no room for different interpretations here. The Light Brigade is a direct confrontation of the evils of capitalism, while simultaneously praising socialism, togetherness, empathy. It is also a book about someone who is deeply ingrained within a broken system, who upon learning of its failures, successfully breaks away from it, then heroically saves the day for everybody else. And she is a bisexual woman no less.
The book also allows us to see exactly everything that Dietz has lost. Her family, her friends, a beloved. Every single subsequent revelation is an emotional punch to the gut and yet she just. Keeps. Going. At first, because there is no other choice: if she opens her mouth (“stick to the brief, Dietz” ), she might disappear like the others from the light brigade. But she is also incredibly dedicated to her comrades, and she cannot, will not, leave them. And so it goes: to find answers, to fix what is going on, and to find a solution to end the war.
This book hit me like a tonne of bricks: rainbow-colored bricks that punched me in the feels like only a book addressed to our times, our generation, our political environment could. There is nothing as powerful as fiction that speaks to you directly in this way, that is rallying cry and emotional harmony at the same time. That makes you want to puke not only because of the graphic horror but also because understanding the evils of capitalism will do that to you. Just as I think this book is essential reading for anyone interested in great science fiction this year, it is also a book that is essential for those of us who feel trapped, because this is a hopeful, heroic, fist-pumping book about a heroine for our times.
“The heroes were always the ordinary people who pursued extraordinary change.”
Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfect