Dietz is a ghoul, a social outcast. In the hyper-capitalist Future that Hurley is painting, corporations have eclipsed nation states and a system of citizens and residents stratifies society. When suddenly most inhabitants of one of Earths largest cities vanish, a war breaks out against communist Mars, settled decades earlier and gone dark. Dietz, the sole point of view character of The Light Brigade, decides to join up with his corporation’s military. In order to surpass logistical limitations, soldiers are turned into light and are thrown across the solar system to fight in battles that wake memories of Starship Troopers. But where the alien bugs of Starship Troopers were stark descriptions of the alien, determining the nature of the enemy is key to the undertones of mystery that Hurley weaves into the story. This is not helped by the scarcity of information doled out to the grunts of this war, like Dietz, and further complicated by a few of those soldiers experiencing the war differently, ending up in battles they have no memory going into.
The self-contained novel weighs in at three-hundred-odd pages and felt much shorter. This is a result of Hurley telling it through the (sometimes coarse) voice of Dietz. Under the grimy patina, however, is a well-crafted book that seemingly effortlessly weaves together a multitude of themes and strands of world building and gradually reveals its recursive mystery, culminating in a satisfying conclusion. My experience with The Light Brigade was surprisingly good, for I normally tend to enjoy mostly space opera that is rich in exposition and slower paced. This book has none of that. Exposition is kept to a minimum, and the world is firmly built to support the themes of the story.
What superficially appears to be yet another military science fiction novel turns out to be old-school science fiction to the core: The exploration of an idea, a possible future, and the use of technology firmly in service of that goal. The story of Dietz is fundamentally one about control, a sometimes scathing critique of unconstrained capitalism and the subjugation of humans to those feudalistic corporation vying for supremacy.
Kameron Hurley is an award-winning American science fiction and fantasy writer of The Stars are Legion, The God’s War Trilogy and The Worldbreaker Saga, as well as the essay collection The Geek Feminist Revolution. She has won the Hugo Award, Locus Award, Kitschy Away and more. The Light Brigade released March 19.