Stark's Command by John G Hemry (Ethan Stark: Book 2)

The sequel to ‘Stark’s War’ sees the beginning of the consequences of Sergeant (now Commander) Ethan Stark’s mutiny on the moon. For non initiates this series sees the USA as the last surviving superpower on Earth which is now determined to also conquer the colonized moon and claim it for itself.

Stark has been placed in command of the US military forces that have overthrown their high-ranking officers. After witnessing firsthand the terrible and unnecessary waste of life thanks to the myopic orders of his superiors Stark now wishes forge an army based on mutual respect. In addition to fighting a merciless foe on the moon’s surface, he must also contend with the US government’s reaction to his mutiny.

I must confess I really enjoyed this outing of Hemry’s pragmatic, analytical and most of all honourable central character: Stark. I would advise readers to not judge this book by its cover. Looking at it you expect gung ho action and a clichéd drama and I must stress that cannot be further from the truth. This is thoughtful, cerebral military science fiction where every decision has to be painstakingly thought through whilst the stakes become increasingly higher. This conveys the awesome responsibility a leader has for his soldiers, personnel and equipment.

This time out Stark must also gain the trust and cooperation of the civilians who have colonised the moon. If the first entry set things up then this one sees Stark tackling a multitude of issues head on, some he never thought he would have to as a soldier. This makes ‘Stark’s Command’ a much more interesting and enjoyable read, it is certainly not just 300 pages plus of grunts battling it out from foxholes and behind rocks; rather it is quite psychological and more about sharing problems and building trust.

With its mixture of ‘civs’ (civilians), ‘mil’ (military), corporations and government the book has plenty of ideologies and thinking to explore with Stark thrust right at the centre of it whether he likes it or not.

What also impressed me about the novel is that it is packed with references to past military history and tactics as well as fleshed out believable supporting characters and not your usual stereotypes. Old favourites like Vic Reynolds, Bev Manley and Stacey Yurivan are all back of course as well as new characters such as Colony Manager James Campbell and his associate and colleague Cheryl Sarafina. What these new additions achieve is added perspective to proceedings so we are not seeing events through one set of eyes. You get a true sense important ideas being thrown about with a multitude of different interests being represented.

Don’t get me wrong, for all of the debates and verbal sparring this is packed with fraught and desperate lunar battles and strong imagery as soldiers fight and die on the barren landscape far from home. This one is guaranteed to hold your attention and keep you thinking and guessing.

Factor in some new arrivals with unknown motives as well as the false propaganda from a manipulative media interested only in ratings and entertainment and you have a morally ambiguous and highly combustible situation.

This is a feasible distant future with Stark having to organise and improvise as he attempts to hold all the different factions together. By the novels end the battle lines have been drawn for a big final confrontation. I cannot wait.

First Published 2001
This Edition 2011 by Titan Books
ISBN: 9780857688989

9/10 This is a feasible distant future.

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