The Light Brigade

The Light Brigade

The Light Brigade was a cavalry unit in the British army during the Crimean war. It’s also a poem by Tennison. And a novel. This post is about this novel by Kameron Hurley.

Plot

In the future, corporations have mostly taken over from governments. People break their backs working for them, trying to gain citizenship. Humanity has colonized Mars, but the Martians rebel against the corporations, and they use some fancy tech to make Sao Paolo vanish. An event called ‘the Blink’.

Dietz had family in Sao Paolo, and wants to become a hero. So when the corporations start recruiting people to fight back against Mars, Dietz joins up. Dietz goes through basic training, ending up at the front. To get there, soldiers are disassembled and turned to light, then sent to Mars and re-assembled. Mostly, this works fine. Mostly.

Sometimes soldiers come back wrong. Organs in the wrong place, pieces of their bodies fused with the ground or surroundings. Sometimes they come back slightly insane. They call those people the Light Brigade.

Dietz falls into that last category, or so it seems. Slowly it becomes clear, though, that Dietz is not insane, but has become unstuck in time.

Characters

Dietz is the protagonist of the story. They want to be hero — their gender isn’t apparent through most of the book and I won’t spoil it here, also because it doesn’t matter. They grew up in the slums, and barely survived. Their mother was ill, and their father was arrested for possession of illegal propaganda. Dietz is determined to avenge what Mars did, but as the story progresses, it becomes clear not all is as it seems.

There are a lot of other characters in the Light Brigade, mostly squad mates of Dietz, but I had trouble keeping them apart. Not because of bad writing, but because Dietz has become unstuck in time. You need a flow chart to keep track of who is who, unfortunately.

Because of the time travel, people join the squad after they’ve already died, and people get promoted after they’ve been in charge for a while. It’s pretty confusing.

The verdict

I recently saw the Tomorrow War, and this novel reminds me of it. However, this story is actually good, where the Tomorrow War is actually crap. The story is a real page-turner, and has the same vibe as Starship Troopers (the novel) and Edge of Tomorrow.

Time-travel stories are always hard to pull off, because it’s easy to make mistakes. You need to set up rules governing the time travel, then keep track of everything, and finally make sure you don’t violate the rules you set up. Apparently, Kameron needed graphs to keep this story straight (be careful, that link contains lots of spoilers), and I can understand why.

Still, it’s great — unlike the other time travel story I recently saw, Tenet, which was mediocre as a story.

So, I can only say, go read this book. I finished it in short order, and loved it.

Martin Stellinga Written by:

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands

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