Michael R. Hicks
Indie scifi writer Michael R. Hicks takes his creation, Reza Gard, back to humanity, picking up the thread left off in In Her Name: Empire. Gard comes bearing a letter from a long-dead Marine colonel recommending him for the Confederation Marine Corps. This causes a stir among the Confederation’s leadership, as well as a split between the uber-hawks and everyone else. The ultra-conservative faction wants Gard’s brain subjected to a destructive scan that, it is later deduced, would reveal very little about humanity’s sworn enemy, the Kreel. So, in an effort to at least learn how and why the Kreel fight, they make him a Marine. He picks up a series of friends along the way, including a reunion with his childhood friend Nicole Carre. He is befriended by a fighter pilot-turned-Marine commander Jodi Mackenzie and a near-washout in basic with the unlikely name of Eustis Camden. A hardliner in the Confederation Senate has Gard and Camden buried in the Corps’s undesirable “Red Legion.” Gard’s presence turns his batallion into an elite wing of the legion.
Which is good. Because Gard and his Marines have to help quell a brewing civil war on a planet critical to the war effort. Things get worse when the conservative faction goes outside the lines and attempts to tip the balance toward the planet’s wealthy at about the time Gard and his closest cohorts stumble onto an ancient Kreel artifact that threatens the planet and the human race with annihilation.
Hicks comes across more confident in this one. Confederation‘s prose is tighter and better paced than Empire. Part of this is Reza Gard being the fish out of water among a group of humans. So instead of trying to convey an alien race and their alien mindset, Hicks is now using Gard to look at humans themselves. The book has a lot in common with John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series, as well as Starship Troopers, The Forever War, and Ender’s Game. Like Scalzi’s work, however, Hicks’ aliens are refreshingly non-insectoid. (At what point does some SF writer realize that humanity’s salvation is a cosmic-sized can of Raid?)