Adam Roberts' new novel is a terrifying vision of a near future war - a civil war that tears the UK apart as new technologies allow the worlds first truly democratic army to take on the British army and wrest control from the powers that be. Taking advances in modern communication and the new eagerness for power from the bottom upwards Adam Roberts has produced a novel that is at once an exciting war novel and a philosophical examination of war and democracy. It shows one of the UKs most exciting and innovative literary voices working at the height of his powers and investing SF with literary significance that is its due.
Science Fiction has always looked forward as a genre, so it’s always interesting to see what new innovation each author brings to the genre. What Adam Roberts brings to the reader in this new offering is a tale that takes the reader into the New Model Army, one that doesn’t rely on the antiquated chain of command but of a cohesion that few others can match as each trooper is an army on his own under his multiple roles. This is achieved through the use of a computer chipped democratic process where each member gets a vote and with a handy wiki available for all to use, they manage to fulfil each roll with ease.
What Roberts also does with this tale is to keep the voice of the principle protagonist as something that is not only brusque but matter of fact which adds a layer of believability to the tale that others fail o achieve. That said there are problems with this tale. For example the author announces two thirds of the way through that the “hero” is gay, not that I’m against it, but it wasn’t required, it didn’t add another layer, it didn’t do anything to further the story and it seemed more as an after thought to try and fill up some space. Why? Was it a homage to the Ancient Greeks or just to try and help bring the tale to another area of the literary market?
All in all, its well written and does bring a whole new option to table. So for that alone it’s a worthy read.