A new author to me requested I review his book and so I’ve done so and I’m not disappointed. I will admit that it did take awhile to get into this book. The political and social concepts on mining colony world HR-2056 or “Vanguard” if you were of the Empire and finally, “Hellmouth”, if you were a local citizen. If that didn’t confuse the people enough, then the fact that their current military contingent, led by Colonel Marcus Riley, had just announced their eminent pullout!
The Empire had problems else where and was recalling all of its troops. That included those now providing protection to this colony. The people were doomed and they knew it! While this planet had been supposedly “cleansed” when initially discovered and subsequently settled, it was not safe. The original inhabitants, the Jergad, had just burrowed deep into the dusty soil and remained there until such time as their strength recovered. It had by now and they were the things of nightmares for the colonist. The Empire’s troops were supposed to be the sole protection from these planetary demons who attacked relentlessly and killed all they came upon! Without these troops, the colonist would exist only a short time before the native inhabitants reclaimed their world.
The monsters of the night came from underground. They could be killed, but not without great effort. That effort involved trained, skilled and highly armed Imperial troops. The normal citizen was busy trying to make a life for his family on this dusty mining world and it was not his or her job to fight. So, it was imperative that Colonial Governor Christopher Dedria came to Colonel Riley to first demand he and his troops stay and then to beg them to do so. Colonel Marcus Riley was not without some sympathy for the colonist. He was driven to obey the orders given to him from the Empire, but he felt that he might delay his departure if some other arrangements could be made.
Colonel Riley wanted the colony to use its own people to defend themselves. While he knew that trying to make an army out of mining colonist wasn’t going to be easy, he knew that they had the manpower. That manpower was the Capitals. These were the indentured and convicted miners used in the pits to do the hard labor. They were not considered worth much and certainly not valued by the colonist or Colonel Riley. Yet, he thought they would make excellent cannon-fodder while attempting to put up some resistance against the Jergad. Col. Riley was willing to delay his departure for a while to train some of these “volunteer” Capitals into something resembling soldiers, but he didn’t see them lasting very long after his departure.
This is where Aaron Havenes comes into the scene. He’s a Capital convicted of murder. He claims it was self-defense except it was against a police officer, a corrupt one at that, so his testimony wasn’t given any credence. He now labored with the knowledge that he was worthless and had nothing much to look forward to but death. He became a “volunteer” soldier, but he knew he wasn’t much of one. He didn’t know what he would do when he encountered his first Jergad. That encounter provided something much different than he or anyone else expected! The Jergad spoke to him!
As I mentioned, the story takes awhile to get into. Explaining the situation of the Capitals is a little confusing and there’s not a whole lot of action in the first several chapters. In fact, there’s not much fighting in the entire book, just a few skirmishes here and there and for only a short time. This is more of a “how you feeling” or “how’s that work” kind of book. Lot of mind games going on by Colonel Riley who turns out not to be much of a protector for the colony.
How this story develops in the next book will be interesting and I might just read it eventually. This was a good story, but nothing real dynamic or hugely exciting, in my humble opinion!