Hardcore (a Combat-K Novel) by Andy Remic (book review)

OK, I’ll admit I’m a fan of the two previous ‘Combat-K’ novels, ‘War Machine’ and ‘BioHell’, so I was looking forward to ‘Hardcore’, the third instalment of the series. I’ll say one thing for Andy Remic, you get a lot for your money with this book costing a penny short of eight quid for 652 pages. That works out to be just over a penny a page and is well worth it!

Hardcore (a Combat-K Novel) by Andy Remic.
Hardcore (a Combat-K Novel) by Andy Remic.

Anyway, ‘Hardcore’ reunites the Combat-K team of Keenan, Pippa and Franco on what looks to be like a simple routine information gathering mission to the planet Krakken IV. As the planet has three continents, Keenan, Pippa and Franco have been promoted to Squad Captains and will each take a squad of three down to one of the continents for a five day mission. Simples, huh? Well, actually no. They seem to have been singled out to receive the most inappropriate squad members imaginable given their individual characters. In addition to the misfits, the inclusion of a health and safety officer in a combat team is a stroke of genius. Andy Remic pens a superb line for Keenen, ‘He couldn’t help but feel he’d been lumbered with a party bucket of idiots.’ Looking around me now, I know exactly how he feels.

Another little detail is the fact that Krakken IV is also known as ‘Sick World’ and for good reason. Hundreds of years ago, when mankind ventured out into the wilderness of space and started to pick up ever more interesting diseases, Krakken IV was turned into a hospital world for the study and treatment of the new interspecies ailments. Unfortunately, something catastrophic happened, although nobody seems to know the details, prompting a mass and total evacuation of the planet. Now uninhabited, Sick World has been in effective quarantine for almost a thousand years.

Regular robotic scans keep reporting that there is no life left on Sick World. Even before I got into the meat of the novel, I didn’t believe this. It’s a ‘Combat-K’ novel for goodness sake, so there has to be something to shoot or blow up or both. It turns out that there is something – quite a lot of something – very sick on Sick World. Not everything made the evacuation points in time and those that were left behind have not fared well.

The backstory to ‘Hardcore’ is the Quad-Gal is under attack from a new threat called the Junks. They are swarming over Quad-Gal territory, corrupting everything in their path and must be stopped. The assignment to Sick World is an attempt to find evidence of the aliens origin, although Quad-Gal Corps senior command seem to know more about Sick World and the Junks but inexplicably don’t mention anything in the briefing notes to Keenan and the team before they disembark on their mission. While the main focus of the book is quite rightly on the Combat-K squad, there is a bigger picture concerning the Junks and how they were created. There are also the events on Sick World with hints that the two events may be related.

If I was to say one thing about ‘Hardcore’ it would be the title should be Sick World! ‘Hardcore’ is only used once in a description of VOLOS, who is the controlling force behind Sick World. For a large part of the novel, Keenan, Franco and Pippa operate independently with their own squads, which give an opportunity for their characters to be developed. They are all brought together towards the end as they battle towards the big boss fight, only things don’t turn out as I expected. It’s an interesting ending which has a lead in to the next book in the series, but how can it be a ‘Combat-K’ novel without [REDACTED].

To gain the most from ‘Hardcore’, you are advised to have read the two previous books as there numerous references to previous events and characters. Some of these are fully explained but others are not, so it’s best to be as clued up as you can. I found ‘Hardcore’ a very enjoyable read with the usual amount of gratuitous violence and comedy moments. The thought of Franco Haggis dressed in a PVC outfit but with only one sandal, attacking an enemy squad shall live with me forever.

Andy Whitaker

April 2014

(pub: Solaris/Rebellion Publishing/HarperCollins. 652 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84416-793-7)

check out websites: www.solarisbooks.com and www.andyremic.com

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