Book Review: The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley


Genre: Science Fiction

Format: Hardback Book

When I read a review for The Light Brigade that called it Edge of Tomorrow meets Starship Troopers I knew I had to read it, if only to see how science fiction powerhouse Kameron Hurley could manage such a feat. I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I got a lot more than I bargained for with a book that somehow manages to tick a lot of contradictory boxes: it’s both bleak and fun, both clever and obvious, both political and pulpy. It’s proof that, in the skilled hands of a master, opposing ideas can create something truly genre-defining.

The Light Brigade is the story of Dietz, who signs up for front-line infantry duty in the corporate war against the Martians in a not-too-distant future. As a member of an infantry platoon, Dietz and her fellow grunts are essentially beamed down to the battlefield: they’re turned into light and then dropped to the front, where their molecules are reassembled–most of the time. Naive and optimistic like most recruits, Dietz gradually experiences the typical horrors of war as the members of her platoon die around her. She becomes a jaded veteran, but with one difference: Dietz isn’t just experiencing the typical trauma of warfare. She’s also experiencing the drops out of order. Confusion turns to anger as her out-of-order drops start to reveal there’s a lot more to the war than the corporations are telling the troops.

There’s so much going on in this book, and the masterfully timed reveals are part of what make it so great, so I don’t want to give away too many spoilers here. That means I can’t say much more about the book, except to say some more things I liked about it: the clever use of time travel and science fiction themes to build a narrative that comes together into an ending that feels familiar and fresh at the same time; the way the reader starts to feel as exhausted and traumatized as the main character as the body count rises and no end to the war seems to be in sight; the examination of one possible future, where corporations rule the world, where the citizens of different corporate nations speak different languages and, after a merger, an entire population finds themselves refugees.

Is this the future we’re hurtling toward? I can only hope not, because it’s a dark future, where megacorporations control the media and use it to manipulate their citizens into believing whatever helps their bottom line, where a human life is only as valuable as the services it can render to the corporation, and where hope is gaining a citizenship that can be stripped away at any time. Though she plunges us into this dark, gritty, hellish landscape that may someday come to be, Hurley doesn’t forget to include a mighty dollop of hope. Hope is what keeps Dietz going–and the reader, too. I’m glad to say that Hurley sticks the ending, which is deeply satisfying after enduring the horrors of war alongside Dietz.

The Light Brigade is easily one of the best science fiction novels I’ve ever read. Why are you still reading this review when you could be reading this book? Get outta here!

5/5 stars

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