Stark's War by John G Hemry (Ethan Stark: Book 1)

This Military Sci Fi novel from the author of ‘The Lost Fleet’ series sees the USA reigning over Earth as the last surviving superpower, economically and militarily supreme. Seeking to build a society free of American influence, foreign countries have inhabited the moon. Now America has raised its gaze once more, and the US military has been ordered to return and wrest control of the new colony.

Sergeant Ethan Stark must train his squadron to fight a desperate enemy in an airless atmosphere at one-sixth of normal gravity. Ensuring his team’s survival means choosing which orders to obey and which to ignore...

This may be science fiction but the way in which Hemry presents everything makes it all perfectly feasible with its world where governments are controlled by corporations and the public are entertained by footage of soldiers fighting a long way from home having eerie echoes of our contemporary world. Although Hemry has said his books take the ‘what if?’ scenario to its logical conclusions, this has much to say about us now as it does on a potential near future version of our world.

This is war from a ‘grunt’s eye’ perspective and the rugged and uncompromising Stark is perfectly placed as the central protagonist in telling it as it is.

When war is seen as entertainment with civilian ratings and viewing figures a concern and a constant battle for meagre resources at stake this is a cynical and dangerous world. Stark represents the last of the honourable soldiers who find themselves in the middle of an ugly and unwanted conflict. He is like many others an unwitting pawn of a greedy and self serving government and military.

Amidst all the combat and world weary cynicism there is gallows humour, banter, camaraderie, loyalty and valour. These soldiers are likeable and believable characters, portrayed as fallible human beings who miss their homes and question their orders from top brass.

Despite being set in space in the near future it is clear that Hemry has researched the technology and attempted to keep his novel within the realms of believability as much as possible.

The cynicism, gloom and mistrust for bureaucracy that pervades the novel manage to create tension and a dark tone. You can sense the outrage and the desperation of the men and women as they fight side by side for a cause they do not entirely believe in and for people who do not necessarily understand or care what they are fighting for.

The military and the media are always trying to put their own spin on things whilst characters like Stark, Vic Reynolds, Sanchez and Mendoza try to make sense of it all whilst trying their best to survive the battles and the questionable decisions of those that outrank them.

‘Stark’s War’ is gripping, stirring boys own stuff with lots of desperate, frenetic, pulsing action as well as managing to be both poignant and thoughtful which is some achievement.

This delivers on many levels and it is not trying to be a polemic or another glossy sci fi adventure, rather it is a chillingly feasible look at the mind-set of the military, governments and the media in an all too conceivable future.

Faceless bureaucrats deciding the fates of thousands sent into danger a long way from home will certainly resonate with a contemporary readership. If Bernard Cornwell gave literature Napoleonic soldier Richard Sharpe, then John G. Hemry has succeeded in giving us a noble warrior of the future in Ethan Stark.


First Published 2000 this edition 2011 by Titan Books 
ISBN: 9780857688613

9/10 John G. Hemry has succeeded in giving us a noble warrior of the future.

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