Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Master Sgt. Michael Venn is back from the battlefields of Mars. Skyrines like Venn had been sent from Earth to the red planet because visiting aliens called Gurus, who gave humans technological advances, had promised more in exchange for our help fighting an enemy who has taken up a proverbial beachhead on Mars. Venn will have to deal with rogue separatist colonists and fellow soldiers with mysterious orders on top of dealing with an opponent known only as the Antagonists. VERDICT There are things to like here, such as the tense setup of Venn returning with a story that he slowly unspools to a woman back on Earth, some excellent military action, and marine camaraderie. But as the narrative finally picks up speed, it also loses coherence, and Bear (Darwin's Radio; Hull Three Zero) chose to have his Martian colonists speak in a thick, made-up dialect that wears out its welcome fast. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Stuffed with adrenaline-pumping action and mystifying ambiguity, Bear's series launch is a tempest of rousing SF adventure with a dash of Peckinpah. On a near-future Earth, the alien Gurus have shared technological advances in exchange for military aid in combating the Antags, who have pursued them as far as Mars. Sgt. Michael Venn and his squad of high-tech Skyrines are sent in on a vaguely defined, shoddily planned mission, which has them dodging poison darts and falling comets until they are stranded, wounded, and running out of air. Rescued by a splendidly terse settler, they seek cover in what at first appears to be an abandoned mining operation, but soon the labyrinth, called the Drifter, emerges as the motive to the conflict itself. Eerily and often gloriously explored but scarcely explained, the Drifter is a bonanza of seemingly unlimited resources that both the Gurus and the Antags are inexplicably seeking to destroy. A psychedelic mind-meld with the structure itself adds a layer of complex mystery, but a dead-stop ending leaves Venn and Bear's readers to impatiently await word of what it was all about. Agent: Richard Curtis, Richard Curtis Associates. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
First of a new science-fiction trilogy from the author of Halo: Silentium (2013, etc.). In the not-too-distant future, interstellar aliens known as the Gurus arrive on Earth and make humanity an offer it cannot refuse: tremendously advanced technology. There's a catch, of course. The Gurus have enemies of their own, the Antagonists, and would like help to fight them. So Earth creates a new combat force, "skyrines," marines who can fight in space or on planets such as Mars, where, it turns out, the "Antags" have already established a beachhead. Veteran skyrine Master Sgt. Michael Venn prepares with his troops for another drop onto the dusty Martian surface, their mission curiously ill-defined. Attacked immediately as he drops, Venn finds himself stranded on the ground with a handful of companions, no backup, no communications or prospect of relief and rapidly running out of air. Fortunately, they're rescued by Teal, a settler, or "Muskie" (named after Elon Musk), and conveyed to a secret Muskie base, the Drifter, where things rapidly get weirder. A bunch of belligerent, racist Voors (also settlers) show up in pursuit of Teal, followed by a platoon of female skyrine special operations troopers, all with their own secret agendas. Meanwhile, in flash-forwards (so we know Venn doesn't dieat least, not yet), a mystifyingly transformed Venn has returned to Earth, where he waits for the mysterious "Joe" to contact him. Packed with adventure and incident, though remarkably little actual combat, and conveyed with gritty realism via characters that have personalities, Bear's first-person narrative builds to a satisfying order of complexity, one he's rarely shown since his earliest days, though readers hoping for one more step upsuch as a military backlash or a splash of social acidwill be thwarted.An intriguing story, but fiction at this high a level deserves just a little more. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.