The Light Brigade is my first sci-fi read of the year (shocking, I know) and it’s also the first time I’ve read a book by Kameron Hurley; I assure you it won’t be the last.
“I suppose it’s an old story, isn’t it? The oldest story. It’s the dark against the light. The dark is always the easier path. Power. Domination. Blind obedience. Fear always works to build order, in the short term. But it can’t last. Fear doesn’t inspired anything like love does.”
What do you do when you lose everything? Taking vengeance against the perpetrator seems to be the most common and logical path to follow. In this superbly written military sci-fi, The Blink has taken everything of importance away from Dietz in the blink—see what I did here?—of an eye. With mind completely concentrated on revenge, Dietz joined the corporate army. The Corps uses an advanced technology that’s able to break down any matter into particles of light—look at the cover art—and transfer them anywhere they want. After a case of desynchronized combat drop from the platoons, Dietz ends up experiencing war differently, leading to a stream of questions regarding sanity, time, freedom, and the purpose of war. In the journey towards becoming a Paladin, Dietz finds that the matter of being a hero isn’t something as simple as exacting revenge or participating in a war that requires soldiers to follow orders with blind obedience.
“I believe there’s sometimes a greater evil that must be vanquished. But more often than we’d like to admit, there is no greater evil, just an exchange of one set of oppressive horrors with another. Wars are for old people. For rich people. For people protected by the perpetuation of horrors on others.”
From what I’ve heard throughout the years, military sci-fi isn’t really what I’d call the most accessible sub-genre out there; some readers I know who love sci-fi have mentioned that the sci-fi weapons and tech commonly utilized in the sub-genre can be distracting and difficult to understand/visualize. No need to worry here; easy accessibility is definitely one of the most evident strengths in Hurley’s visceral storytelling. The Light Brigade is a military sci-fi that focuses on futuristic war; a prominent time travel element featuring multiple timelines also dominated the narrative. This novel could’ve easily been inaccessible to readers who are not invested in this particular sub-genre but I really don’t think that will be the case here. Hurley’s prose is very effective at making sure that readers will be able to follow what’s going on; even the tech and gadgets being used in the story were explained efficiently.
“Don’t tell me every revolution is peaceful. Revolutions rely on the tireless work of faceless masses whose lives mean so little individually that their names weren’t known to their movements even when alive.”
As if this novel hasn’t been crafted cleverly enough, Hurley implemented an absolutely brilliant take on creating a character that doesn’t require a gender label. Noticed that I haven’t mentioned Dietz’s gender in my review? There wasn’t any instance where Dietz was called or mentioned by gender. This reminded me of Martha Well’s All Systems Red, where the main character is a robot and there are no gender nouns to label it. However, in All Systems Red, I found myself thinking that the main character is a female robot; that’s simply not the case here. Dietz is a character that would totally work with any gender that readers prefer and in my opinion, this was a super refreshing reading experience in SFF. Writing this review without calling Dietz by any gender pronouns was difficult enough, and I can’t even imagine the task of writing a full novel with this approach.
“The heroes were always the ordinary people who pursued extraordinary change.”
One last thing before I end my review. I’d like to talk about how relevant I found the passages and conflicts discussed in this book. The Light Brigade was written with so much emotion and passion; it felt to me like Hurley was truly pouring her feelings into every page. Just check out the first page if you don’t believe me; the first page alone hooked me immediately and it didn’t let up until the final page. War, conflicts, and the illusion of free choices were some of the most important themes being discussed and they were delivered with destructive impact. I highlighted a ridiculous amount of passages in this book and I truly wish I could just paste them all here. But for the sake of future readers’ maximum enjoyment, I’ll refrain from doing so. The quote below is the last one that I’ll share, and I feel like this one really nails one of the problems we face regarding our past, present, and most likely, future society.
“The corps were rich enough to provide for everyone. They chose not to, because the existence of places like the labor camps outside Sao Paulo ensured there was a life worse than the one they offered. If you gave people mashed protein cakes when their only other option was to eat horseshit, they would call you a hero and happily eat your tasteless mash. They would throw down their lives for you. Give up their souls.”
This doesn’t mean that everything’s grim here. Beneath all the deaths, hellfire, sorrow, war and gore, hope and love prevail in Dietz’s motivational journey for truth, freedom, justice, and peace. Exciting action scenes, easy accessibility, a totally clever plot, evocative characters, and compelling prose that offers resonating philosophical questions all combined to create an amazing novel. The Light Brigade was a tremendously addictive and intelligent military sci-fi that deserves to be read, reread, and remembered by every reader of the genre. I recommend this immensely entertaining book to any sci-fi enthusiast who loves reading a grim war story that’s balanced with humor, heart, and hope. Also, if you’ve read and loved All You Need is Kill (Edge of Tomorrow is the movie adaptation based on this), this incredibly engaging novel would be perfect for you.
“Don’t just fight the darkness, friends. Let’s be the light.” – Kameron Hurley
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)