ORDERS OF BATTLE by Marko Kloos (BOOK REVIEW)
Reviewer’s Note: As this is a review for the seventh book in Marko Kloos’s ongoing Frontlines series, it will contain minor spoilers for overarching story elements in earlier books in that series.
While Orders of Battle is the seventh book in the Frontlines series, it feels like it could stand on its own as the first book in a new story. Marko Kloos summarizes just enough of what’s come before that readers can pick this book up cold and still be immediately drawn into the ongoing war against humanity’s implacable, seemingly-genocidal foe: the Lankies. This alien race first attacked our colonies without provocation and then struck directly at Earth and Mars before we defeated them … barely.
Those human soldiers who survived first contact with humanity’s new enemy chose the term “Lankies” because the aliens they faced on the ground were towering, four-legged, bulletproof nightmares that attacked in groups and could stomp humans flat. The Lankies are not humanoids, but are instead giant beasts I’ve always imagined as a nightmarish mishmash of an elephant and rhinoceros. Their “seed ships” dwarfed what space battleships humanity could field during first contact, and once they successfully land on any planet, they burrow deep and are all but impossible to remove.
As Kloos’s latest book begins, humanity has suppressed or driven the Lankies out of our solar system and developed the space battleships and weaponry to fight them on even footing. Yet rather than wait for the aliens to attack anew, humanity will go on offense for the first time in the war. And Andrew Grayson, our sole POV character for every book in the series, is once again on the front lines (see? Just like the series title!) of the human/Lankie conflict, as we ride along with him to where the war began.
If I had to distill what makes the Frontlines series so engrossing down to two elements, it would be these. First, Grayson, the POV character in all seven books, is a relatable, interesting, and highly competent soldier who remains fallible and sympathetic. Second, the Frontlines series doesn’t sit still. Each of Kloos’s installments has believably progressed the human/Lankie conflict as humanity struggles to survive, adapt, and now, in Orders of Battle, finally go on offense, and this book is no exception. It’s refreshing to read a series that consistently pushes its narrative forward instead of spinning its wheels.
To provide a detailed summary of Orders of Battle would be to ruin much of its fun, so I’ll simply summarize the book in broad strokes and, I hope, without significant spoilers. In the first few chapters we learn that humanity is launching its first offensive action of the human/Lankie war. Grayson, now a veteran officer tasked with training the new recruits, is drawn once more into an active and dangerous deployment. By the time the book concludes we’ve discovered new, disturbing facts about humanity’s foe, and better yet, just when Grayson’s mission seems to be drawing to a close, Kloos throws us a curveball. It’s one few will see coming, and one that will likely take the war in an exciting new direction.
While Orders of Battle doesn’t tell the complete story of this newest chapter in the human/Lankie conflict — it’s obvious this book is setting up another trilogy-sized story — it’s still an engrossing read from start to finish. I finished Orders of Battle satisfied by the story I’d read, eager for the next installment, and excited by everything this book has now set up.
I’d recommend Orders of Battle (and the entirely Frontlines series) to both devoted fans of military SF and SF fans who perhaps don’t read a lot of military SF, but enjoyed the rebooted Battlestar Galactica or similar series. Even if you’ve bounced off military SF in the past, I believe Kloos does a terrific job of writing books that are accessible to SF fans of all genres, and Orders of Battle is no exception.
Whether this is your first book in the series or you’re a long time fan, you’re in for an entertaining ride.
You can find Orders of Battle below:
Or the Frontlines series here: