Lines of Departure and Angles of Attack fit together as sequels to Terms of Enlistment, all by Marko Kloos. I read and enjoyed Terms of Enlistment (see review here) because it was primarily a people story in a military future/science fiction setting. (I avoid military science fiction where the main characters are guns and ships, not people.) Lines of Departure happens 5 years later with our protagonist Andrew Grayson in a new job, now a combat controller, the person who calls fire down on enemy positions. Other things have not changed.
The North American Commonwealth (NAC) is still stuffed with welfare rats who have little or no hope, few protections and little to eat. The NAC are still fighting the Sino-Russian Alliance (SRA) and both are still losing badly to the 80 foot tall Lanky aliens. The Lankies kill as many colony people as they can with nerve poison and the rest die when the Lanky atmospheric plants raise the CO2 level too high.
It was incredible to me that the NAC and SRA were still fighting. Yes, I understand that the SRA wouldn’t believe NAC peace overtures until one of their colonies was destroyed. But 5 years into the story? With dozens of colonies destroyed? Kloos has an extremely pessimistic view of people and Grayson frequently muses whether it would be best if the Lankys win and exterminate humanity.
Kloos centers his novels on people and most were very well done. Andrew Grayson is believable and mostly likable as is his mother whom he visits. The scientist Dr Stewart and Constable Guest on the moon colony New Svalbard were also well done.
The character I detested was sergeant Fallon, Peter’s original mentor. She is packed onto the large transport where Peter is assigned where she continues to use her Medal of Honor and mystique to form her own clique. Somehow she “knows” that the admiral, a 1-star reservist, will give an untenable and illegal order and she proactively places her people in position to disobey and thwart the order. I don’t know what one should do in a situation like this but firing upon and killing one’s own is not right.
Fallon continues her “I know best” routine in Angles of Attack. Yet she never wants to rise above sergeant, never wants a formal leadership position. I’ve always believed that you put your money where your mouth is: If you truly have great ideas and strong leadership, then lead. Don’t be a shadow opponent and form cliques. (A formal leadership position cements the informal leadership role in organizations.)
Kloos does an excellent job mixing slower paced scenes with super fast slam bang action. That helps flesh the characters and also gives us a break and time to let the rest of the story, its setting and background, seep in.
Peter visits his Mom in Boston, which shows us how much the welfare complexes have deteriorated and how much the government police force is detested. It lets us see the background, learn more about the characters and gives a needed respite between hectic days.
This series uses setting effectively. We have Earth, particularly the welfare cities filled with hungry desperate people, the transport ships, then the excellent, detailed setting on New Svalbard which I particularly liked . New Svalbard is a moon and it is very cold. At the equator it is warm enough in summer to wear light jackets and grow food but the winters are 50 or so below zero with gale winds. The NAC is terraforming the world to make it warmer although we don’t know what they are doing to effect the change.
Clearly Kloos believes the Peter Principle, that people rise to one level above their competence. The NAC leaders are venal and reluctant to solve problems or even tell the populace the truth about the Lanky advance. At the end of Angles of Attack we learn that government and military leaders have evacuated Lines of Departure Earth to some unknown destination, leaving everyone else behind to die in the Lanky invasion. This pessimism is tiresome and made the books a little less enjoyable. It explains why the best leaders are sergeants and captains, not admirals.
In a long career in two multinational corporations I saw the Peter Principle in play only a handful of times. To someone at the bottom the guys at the top often look incompetent as their decisions and orders seem stupid and ill-thought, but with advancement one sees a larger picture.
You will enjoy these most if you read them in sequence without much time between each one. The plot line in Lines of Departure and Angles of Attack follow too closely to read them out of sequence except the last chapter in Angles is slower and sets up the following book, Chains of Command.
I gave Terms of Enlistment 4 stars and considered giving it 5. Lines of Departure and Angles of Attack are also good, well-written stories with interesting people and a compelling plot line. However I felt both were slightly less enjoyable due to the pervasive pessimism and Sergeant Fallon’s antics but I still enjoyed them and intend to read book 4, Chains of Command when I can get it from the library. Let’s say 3 1/2 to 4 stars for these.