Nobody likes spoilers. Sometimes though it is a spoiler that leads to what I call a pearl of literature. It’s been a spoiler indeed – just a very, very small spoiler – that made me read a jewel of science fiction: Kameron Hurley’s “The Light Brigade”
In an unknown dystopic future states have vanished. Corporations divide earth among themselves. Mankind is not split into poor and rich anymore. People are split into a kind of castes: citizens, residents and ghouls, the outcasts of human society.
There are no more diseases. At least in theory and for those who can afford health care, for the privileged. Media are controlled an censored. What threatens the power of the corporations nobody will know. At least not via official channels.
Though the one who has much, wants even more, though noboby wants to give away what he owns, the corps maintain their own military. Of course no corp will openly attack another. So it’s a good thing that earth is under attack. Moon is blown apart. In Sao Paolo millions of people simply vanish. Mars attacks!
After the Blink, that mysterious vanishing of those millions of Sao Paolo inhabitants, young Dietz enlists for military service. She wants to go to war, wants to be a hero, avenge her family. And military service givesgood chances to become a citizen. Yes, Dietz is a young woman. That’s been the spoiler. But you would figure that out quite soon, so it is actually not a spoiler at all.
So young Dietz goes to military to avenge her family and friends an kick ass those hateful Marsian aliens. Up to this the story seemed familiar. Star Ship Troopers had a similar setting. Young people enlisting for military service (also because service brings some privileges), undergo a hard training and finally go to battle.
Only that Dietz doesn’t fight giant bugs. Only that this war is about something different.
Only that the whole story is about something very different.
There is exactly on main character: Dietz, who tells us her story. Every other person in the story, no matter what place and room she or he takes in Dietz’s live, is not more than a side character. There is not even a true and classical antagonist.
Comrades step into Dietz’s live and leave it. Enemies are not even named. They remain the anonymous foe whose name no soldier ever learns. That’s war. If the enemy gets some indentity, things become personally. The soldier might even not dare to shoot at the other one, though the foe is a person now. So one has to make sure that the enemy remains some abstract construct. It’s “the evil Martians and their communist regime”. That’s all Dietz learns, the corps won’t give away more information. That’s all the reader learns, because Dietz only tells, what she knew at any moment of her story.
In all this the writer doesn’t use an all to high language. No colorful metaphers, no long and complicated sentences. It is the objective tone of someone, some veteran, who tells her story. To her children, maybe. Or to some stranger she accidently met in some tavern.
With all that objectivity Kameron Hurley still manages to transport emotions. It’s war and war is terrible. Dietz learns that and Dietz suffers perceptible to the reader.
Dietz encounters puzzling things. Mankind in that future has the technology for (literaly) travel at speed of light. People are made into light and then sent to their destination. Just Dietz does not always arrives where (or when) she is supposed to. It is hard to the reader to keep track of the timeline of those jumps. But it is as hard to Dietz herself.
Through that simple but intense style of writing the reader becomes Dietz, is stuck in her head. I experiences “The Light Brigade” in the perspective of a first person shooter, saw everything through Dietz’s eyes. “Being Dietz” would be good title for the book as well as the on chosen by the author.
Stuff for the future
I’m always searching for reading stuff. Of course there are still books unread in my shelf and my e-reader, but they will be read sometime.
Kameron Hurley is absolutly a candidate to be among the writers read by me in future. If “The Light Brigade” is a typical example for Mrs. Hurley’s way of writing, her books definetly belong into the SciFi part of my collection.
But even for those, who have no affinity for science fiction, “The Light Brigade” might be interesting. Different to the “common” SciFi works technology doesn’t take any big part. It’s there but Kameron Hurley doesn’t even try to explain even a bit. The focus is on a dramatic story. All those futuristic things are just the stage.
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