A Soldier’s Duty – Theirs Not to Reason Why by Jean Johnson
I have not read Jean Johnson’s best-selling series the “Sons of Destiny.” Not really my genre – although fantasy, it’s more romance than anything else – or so she even admitted at NorWesCon 35. However, I’m happy she’s come over to military scifi-fantasy with A Soldier’s Duty. Because this novel kicks ass. I haven’t read in this genre since Ender’s Game. At least I can’t recall doing so. But, Johnson, for all her civilian knowledge brings to light the real challenges, feelings, and bittersweet glories of being in the military. I even had to ask her at the Philip K. Dick Awards – just to make sure she didn’t have personal military experience. She hasn’t. She did admit to doing lots of interviews, discussions and research. She translated that research so well – even amongst the backdrop of having precognitive powers, heavyworld abilities and deep space wars – that you would think she’d abandoned a 17-year military career much as I had. There were moments her book took me back in time to my own military experiences – both good and bad. For those without service experience, her story within this genre is not weighted down with too many technical details or confusing and unfollowable acronyms, which I have found in other books of this genre (since a few have fallen in my lap since I discovered this tome in January). Her description of non-humanoid aliens are endearing, creative and believable.
Johnson’s prose displays shades of perhaps an ancient Celtic bard experience through the tale-through-song ability of her protagonist, Ia – bringing great moments of hilarity and calming smiles that every soldier needs both before and following battles.
The fact that I’ve read this book twice since January proves it will become one of my “comfort” novels. August cannot come quickly enough for the next in the series.