"Gust Front" by John Ringo reviewed by Military Science Fiction World
The second novel in the Posleen War Series, “Gust Front”, was a tad bit of a disappointment for me, which is surprising. Those who know me might think I would have loved this second installment for reasons I will discuss later on.
So to start out, I was looking forward to this second installment in the series because I imagined it would be a bit quicker to the action. As I mentioned in my review of the first book of the series, “A Hymn Before Battle”, the action was a bit long in coming. This was because there was significant backstory and build up necessary, and being the first book in the series I accepted that. Especially because when the action did come, it was totally worth the wait. So since the stage has been set already, I was looking forward to a bit of a faster start to the action in Gust Front, and unfortunately was disappointed. There was a great deal of buildup, and some lengthy scenes that were a bit pointless to me. I understand the need for non-action character development, a vacation so to speak. But the level of detail and length of the scenes in question made them drag on for me. As usual, I don't want to give away any specifics but when you read the fish cleaning scene, hopefully you'll understand what I mean.
Now it is clearly shown in the dedication, author's note, and just about the entire book, that this latest installment is a huge ode to engineers, specifically the Army Corps of Engineers that the author's father was a part of. Being an engineer myself, and once aspiring to be a combat engineer for the army, you would think I would have loved that aspect of the story. However, I found many of the most engineerish scenes to drag on. There really isn't anything that interesting about reading long descriptions of dirt being pushed into a big pile for a fortification.
Another aspect I did not particularly care for was how some of the new characters were introduced. There were a bunch of familiar characters from the previous book which was great. No real introduction needed for them as many authors will assume you've read the first book, and that is fine. However there were many new characters, some playing a relatively small role, others a larger one. What bothered me about the new characters was that we were just dumped into their lives with no preamble or backstory whatsoever. I know this may seem contradictory, where on one hand I'm whining about taking too long to get to the action, and now I'm complaining about lack of a proper introduction for new characters. However there is a nice gray area which is the perfect amount of introduction before action sequences begin. This gray area resides between the two extremes of no introduction and too much introduction. No part of this book falls in that nice gray area, it is either one extreme or the other. Characters we know already have long drawn out sequences that were actually quite boring to me. Characters we didn't know have about 30 seconds of introduction where we are thrown into their world before the sky starts falling and everyone is running around like crazy. I actually found myself flipping backwards in the book to see if I had missed when this new character was introduced. I even went as far as to review the characters from the first novel to see if I missed them there. Neither was the case, and we were just flung in without even a description of the new character, and expected to learn as we went.
The final aspect I was disappointed in was the ending. I mentioned it in my review of the first installment of the series, but it bears mentioning again. A very common theme in recent military science fiction I’ve read, especially in those stories that are part of a series, is a rushed ending. Most of the time I feel the reason it is rushed is to sell the next book. Gust Front did better than most, it really didn't leave us completely hanging so you can't wait for the next book, it adequately finished thoughts and combat scenes without a major cliffhanger. There of course is a third book in the series, and the larger background plot will make many want to read the next book, but you can also comfortable stop reading and not feel like you've been left hanging. However, the reason I was disappointed with the ending was because I felt there was a lot of buildup to the big climactic event, and then suddenly it was over. The buildup greatly exceeded the climactic battle in length, and the climax wasn't even all that good. In my opinion, it was pretty dull compared to the ending of the first book. Then after the climax, the book jumps around a bit, tying up loose ends with a variety of characters and then, bam, done. Personally, I wouldn't mind a bit more time with the endings. Lately with most of the military science fiction I have read, I feel like the author can't wait to start his new project, and just rushes through the ending of the current project to get it done. It is pretty sloppy in my opinion, but that is par for the course these days.
So all in all, despite my negative thoughts here, I did enjoy Gust Front. I can appreciate the tribute to engineers, even if I didn't completely enjoy it. There was a lot of action, even if it did take longer than I'd hoped to start, and for the most part that action was well written and entertaining. There are several military science fiction books I have enjoyed so much that I've read them (or the whole series in one case) 4 or 5 times. Gust Front will not be joining those ranks however, reading it once was enough for me. I did enjoy it, but not enough to read it twice. I do however plan to read the third book, so stay tuned for a review here. Here's hoping that the third book is better than the second and will be just as good a read as the first one.
Until next time, I’d love to get some comments and hear what others think about the novels I am reviewing. Or you can just tell me to stop complaining about how long it takes to get to the action, move on already, and do something meaningful for the world. I’d accept that too ;)