The Bastard Legion: book one by Gavin Smith (book review).

April 6, 2020 | By | Reply More

‘The Bastard Legion’ by Gavin Smith is the first novel in the ‘The Bastard Legion trilogy.

Miska Corbin, ex-United States Marine Corps Special Operations Raider Regiment and ex-CIA is on a personal mission to find out who killed her Dad, Gunnery Sergeant Jonathan Corbin, USMC retired. It was a very professional hit. Her CIA handler tells her the shooters were ‘caught, arraigned, tried, pled guilty and incarcerated all in six weeks’ while she was away on a mission. They are on the prison barge Hangman’s Daughter on its way to Proxima where the killers are expected to be automatically released.

Of course, Miska wants to go to Proxima to deal with them, except a virus has deleted all official records of who they are. They are anonymous among the 6,000-plus prisoners held in cold storage and only allowed out for UN mandated exercises. It leaves Miska just one choice. With help from Rafael and the CIA, she hijacks Hangman’s Daughter to investigate each of prisoners in turn.

She cannot be seen to be working for the CIA so, with the help of her Dad’s last upload, trains the prisoners to be mercenaries for hire and controls them by implanting an explosive device in their necks, effectively turning them into slaves. Her first CIA mission in this role is to quash a miners’ rebellion on an asteroid mine orbiting around Tau Ceti.

It should have been a simple over-run and subdue job. Of course it goes wrong. The Tau Ceti Company has given her out-of-date intel. The miners had help from a sentient AI virus who wants to be a do-gooder. She cannot be seen to fail on her first mercenary job and has to do something about it.

What follows is the usual mayhem and chaos of a military space opera with Miska having to do a balancing act. There are the needs of the CIA mission to repress the miners. There is the urgent need to not fail on her first mercenary job, otherwise nobody will want to hire her men. She has to stop the nascent in-fighting between the prisoner gangs like the Mafia and Yakuza. Above all, she has to be careful not to get too close emotionally to any of the prisoners.

If you are into military space opera, it is a very enjoyable read. There are lots of fast-paced action, gizmo military hard- and soft-ware, and a lot of dead bodies. It has some nice touches now and then. For example, when Miska is dealing with her uploaded Dad we have: ‘It is only the lack of visible cyberware that reminded her he wasn’t (alive).

If you are looking for technological realism in your Science Fiction, this is not the book for you. Yes it draws on standard ‘technology themes’ that have been seen elsewhere in Science Fiction and many of you will be at home with them. The whole novel seems to be based on the way the USA works, as witnessed for example by the use of the Marines in space when military interventions will be done far more by robots, etc. It is kind of today’s technology and way of life thrown into the distant future.

The idea of following a battle within cyberware by representing the action arena as a seventeenth Caribbean pirate port is visually pleasing, but lacking in detailed information of vulnerabilities and battle diagnostics. To me, this is a shortcut cheat the author does to get reader buy-in.

Plot-wise it follows the standard strategy of putting various obstacles in the way of the hero Miska to overcome until she is left bloodied and injured and having to use her ‘ace in the hole’ resources to achieve her aims. Whilst her CIA mission turns eventually into a success of sorts, we are apart from ruling out a handful of prisoners no further forward in finding out who her Dad’s killers are, which left me somewhat dissatisfied with the story. I am hoping this is remedied later on in books 2 and 3 of the trilogy.

Whilst ‘The Bastard Legion’ is a good quality light-hearted read in the military space opera sub-genre, it does not have that fresh feel of cutting edge or sufficiently unique characterisation and innovative plot to make it resonate deeply with the reader.

Rosie Oliver

April 2020

Get it in the UK from https://amzn.to/2zdDSgN

Get it in the USA from https://amzn.to/2Kj0fnq

(pub: Gollancz, 2017. 322 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK), $13.99 (US), $15.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-473-21725-6)

check out website: www.orionbooks.co.uk

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