Friendly Fire: book two of The Bastard Legion by Gavin Smith (book review).

‘The Bastard Legion: Friendly Fire’ by Gavin Smith is the second novel in the ‘The Bastard Legion’ trilogy.

Miska Corbin, ex-United States Marine Corps Special Operations Raider Regiment and CIA black operative has taken over a prison barge with some 6,000 inmates. Her aim was to find who among them killed her father. The CIA’s aim is to give her and her prisoners black ops suitable missions. The prisoners are trained by an electronic ghost of her marine father to be soldiers and are known as the Bastard Legion. If they don’t follow her orders or keep her alive, she will detonate the bombs planted in their heads.

The mission the CIA offers her is to retrieve an alien artefact from Barnard’s Prime, a tidally locked planet around Barnard’s Star. It may be American soil, but there is no official reason to confiscate the artefact legally. Miska has to steal it with the help of a small team and get it off the planet from under American law enforcement agencies’ noses. They, including her sister, Angela, are already in hot pursuit of her and her Bastard Legion. ‘Barney Prime’ is practically run by the Mafia, some of whose members are now her prisoners being turned into soldiers. She needs the local knowledge with her to complete the mission, but fears they will find a way to escape their prison and stay on the planet. Miska’s experience has always found these reputed alien artefacts to be frauds, so she thinks the mission will be easy and accepts it. After all she needs the money the CIA are paying her for the mission to keep Bastard Legion running.

This set up promises a lot of action scenes, tension and a decent body count. The novel delivers this in spades.

It also promises to fill in some of the backstory on the Mafia members of the Bastard Legion and this, too, is satisfactorily delivered when we meet some of the members of their families, including one ‘Mom’ who happens to be a priest who is normally addressed as ‘Mother’. This gives a chance for Miska to bond with her soldiers. By the novel’s end, we see them becoming more of a team.

What this novel does not do is move the plot forward in her finding out who killed her father. One of the prisoners says he is may be able to discover something, only for him to be killed without leaving any clues to solve the mystery. This alone makes the novel lightweight in fulfilling its role as a second in a trilogy, ie one of moving the moving plot and characters forward in meaningful ways to enable the third novel to deliver its grand finale.

I also found the weapons a little too classical. They have faster-than-light travel and yet use carbines and swords as weapons of choice in many scenes. Clearly this novel leans towards role-playing games type of military Science Fiction.

It you want an easy read of brutal action adventure story with a ‘gung ho’ spirit that travels across the planets, this is definitely a novel for you.

Rosie Oliver

August 2020

(pub: Gollancz, 2018. 358 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £10.99 (UK), $13.99 (US), $15.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-473-21727-0)

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