War heroes aren’t usually called out of semi-retirement and sent to the far reaches of the galaxy for a routine investigation. So when Colonel Carl Butler answers the call from an old and powerful friend, he knows it’s something big—and he’s not being told the whole story. A high councillor’s son has gone MIA out of Cappa Base, the space station orbiting a battle-ravaged planet. The young lieutenant had been wounded and evacuated—but there’s no record of him having ever arrived at hospital command.
The colonel quickly finds Cappa Base to be a labyrinth of dead ends and sabotage: the hospital commander stonewalls him, the Special Ops leader won’t come off the planet, witnesses go missing, radar data disappears, and that’s before he encounters the alien enemy. Butler has no choice but to drop down onto a hostile planet—because someone is using the war zone as a cover. The answers are there—Butler just has to make it back alive…
The first in a trilogy, Planetside melds the best in the military science fiction tradition with a droll and somewhat jaded perspective of the lead protagonist, in the guise of Col. Carl Butler. Who, with a healthy dose of scepticism, in an action-packed plot infused with plenty of mystery, gets to the bottom of the odd disappearance of a young lieutenant.
But what should be a simple premise—find out what happened to Lt. Mallot—turns out to be anything but simple, for Butler and his team. And when he doesn’t trust the team he’s been given, any more than the commander of Capa Base, Col. Butler’s job becomes a game of matching wits with those around him. Military personnel who, at best, are either not enthusiastic about helping, or are doing their best to hinder his investigation while hiding secrets of their own.
What Planetside is, at its heart, nestled within a framework of military science fiction, is a multi-layer and very cleverly written mystery. And while Butler delves further into what happened, layer after layer is peeled back to reveal an insidious underbelly of corruption and ambition. Well, we all know about people using the mantra, “I’m doing all this to save humanity,” is a cover for their behaviour usually means they are so focused in their belief, as to forget they are probably selling their soul for a lie.
Which is exactly what we find in Planetside. Small discrepancies, minor incidents, all begin to add up. And, the more he digs, the more everyone stonewalls his investigation. To the point where Butler realises the only way he’s going to get to the truth is to go planetside to confront the problem head-on and, hopefully, in doing so, finally get some answers.
Well, Butler finally gets his answers and, so do we. In a taut twisting build-up, pieces of the jigsaw puzzle slowly fall into place, as we arrive at resolution, I for one, wasn’t expecting, in a truly twisted endgame that well, quite literally, blew Planetside wide apart!
With flowing, easy to read prose, a congenial, well-defined MC, and a twisted plot layered with ruses and complexity, Planetside is one of the best military SF reads I’ve had in a long while. Mammay certainly has all the right credentials to write what is, a thoroughly absorbing mystery built within a futuristic framework, with plenty of nail-biting action as the bullets and rockets explode. Plenty enough to satisfy even the most jaded SF palate.
PLANETSIDE (book #1)
Mass Market Paperback | 384 pages
Harper Voyager, 2018
Military Science Fiction