Author: Michael Mammay
Publisher: Harper Voyager, 2019
Series: The Planetside Trilogy
Format: Paperback, 360 pages
Genre: Science Fiction | Military SF
Back Cover Blurb
Following his mission on Cappa, Colonel Carl Butler returns to a mixed reception. To some he is a do-or-die war hero. To the other half of the galaxy he’s a pariah. Forced into retirement, he has resettled on Talca Four where he’s now Deputy VP of Corporate Security, protecting a high-tech military company on the corporate battlefield—at least, that’s what the job description says. Really, he’s just there to impress clients and investors. It’s all relatively low risk—until he’s entrusted with new orders. A breach of a competitor’s computer network has Butler’s superiors feeling every bit as vulnerable. They need Butler to find who did it, how, and why no one’s taken credit for the ingenious attack.
As accustomed as Butler is to the reality of war-games—virtual and otherwise—this one screams something louder than a simple hack. Because no sooner does he start digging when his first contact is murdered, the death somehow kept secret from the media. As a prime suspect, he can’t shake the sensation he’s being watched … or finally succumbing to the stress of his past. Paranoid delusion or dangerous reality, Butler might be onto something much deeper than anyone imagined. But that’s where Butler thrives. If he hasn’t signed his own death warrant.
What I Thought
SPACESIDE follows on two years after the events that take place the end of Planetside without so much as missing a beat. And Mammay doesn’t play catch up, like some authors might do, but goes straight to Butler having to deal with the aftermath of his decision—having become the most infamous person in the galaxy. Both mentally and physically, he’s shaken, and he’s lost confidence in himself, and his decision making process. He’s seeing a shrink, not sleeping well, and doubting and second guessing himself at ever juncture.
And then, when he starts seeing Cappans sat on the bus, as he’s going to work. You know something is up. Butler struggles to figure out whether he’s seeing thing, being paranoid, or hallucinating from stress. Is what he saw real? And are there hybrid Cappans on the planet, or is his past just giving him waking nightmares?
Again, Mammay has written a cleverly twisted plot dropping Butler (and us) into the middle of what, at first, looks like a simple case of corporate espionage, but given Butler’s background and history, it soon becomes apparent that there is more going on, than meets the eye. And suddenly, we’re deep into a mystery, wrapped in a thriller, loaded with suspense, that’s fraught with intrigue.
Once more we follow the clues at the same times as Butler, trying to make sense of what’s going on. Grandstanding his thoughts and emotions, and working through his thought processes and internal conflict, something that makes Spaceside feel so much more intimate. Here we have a man, normally use to action within a defined command structure, facing down his own indecision at the same time he’s coping with the consequences of his previous actions, including the subsequent loss of his wife. All of which helps flesh out Butler on a very personal level. Not just as a narrator of the story.
“Your whole life you do big, important things. You speak and people listen. Then suddenly that’s over, and you’re wasting your life doing some bullshit job that doesn’t matter, where nobody cares what you do as long as you show up for the company functions.”
I really enjoy this style of first person, in depth reactive analysis, through a main character, when it’s done this well. Butler is so well written, that he’s able to carry the entire story and, make us believe. It’s a joy to read this kind of clever writing, that not only keeps us second guessing, but also able to blindside us with a few neat plot twists. Till, even up until the end, we’re not sure just how Butler is going to get out of this one, alive!
The author also brought back a couple of other characters bleeding over from Planetside, to help aid and support Butler, including the now retired General Serata who, like Butler, is now living with the consequences of what happened in Planetside. While also giving us a solid cast of secondary characters that were, in and of them selves, really interesting as well.
What Mammay’s stories offer are a uniquely different take in what is a crowded MilSF market. What I especially love about his storytelling, never mind the witty dialogue, is the strength of his main character, Butler. All in all, this series is not only clever, it’s smart.