Taking such jabs at the real world is one of the joys of science fiction; Hanson has one character marvel at the idea that once upon a time back on Earth, the people who decided whether we would go to war weren”€™t the same ones who had to fight it. On leave, some cadets go to see a movie that’s a PC-propaganda remake of The Odd Couple, casting a slobby Earthling and a neat-freak alien as roommates who have to learn to get along.

The disturbing history of this fictional universe is drip-fed slowly to the reader, as the main narrative focuses tightly on four cadets in the Terran Empire’s armed forces. We only learn what’s going on as the cadets do, which gives the histories a feeling of depth”€”and their higher-ups are working hard to hide things from them. 

Their coming-of-age story fills a gap I hadn”€™t thought about much: the one between YA fiction and adult fiction. Cry Havoc deals with some of the bleakest events that young people in the real world face”€”like losing their friends to war”€”while still giving advice by example on the more pedestrian puzzles of your late teens, like looks and popularity. (There’s some rough language, but most of it comes from the mouth of an unlikeable mid-level sergeant.) Cry Havoc grows more somber by the end, and the next book in the series is darker still.

The cadets”€”two girls and two boys”€”begin the book with roughly equal combat prowess between the genders, in the cartoonish style of egalitarian heroes. Hanson admits that when he began the story he was hedging his bets against the PC brigade: like a lot of the new authors that Permuted signed during their bubble, he had stars in his eyes about the publishing industry and wanted to get ahead. He figured that if his female characters weren”€™t physics-defying war animals, the book “€œwasn”€™t going to get past the crop of gatekeepers raised on Buffy and tuffgrrrl clichés.”€

But as he went along, the cadets “€œended up shaping themselves into what they are,”€ with the girls specializing in tactics and the boys in beating the guts out of the enemy. “€œI like to think of it as “€˜subverting tropes,”€™ and actually doing so,”€ he says, “€œversus the laziness that gets passed off as a subverted trope.”€

After a rough lesson in the way the industry works”€”and as long as he’s going it alone”€”he figures he’s better off writing honestly.

Please contact [email protected] with review queries.


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!


Daily updates with TM’s latest