Following her superlative “The Red” trilogy (The Red: First Light, The Trials, Going Dark), Linda Nagata returns to military science fiction with the authority and clarity that we’ve come to expect from her. Yet this book, set not within a fighting force but a private military company, allows for an even deeper empathy with the lead character than her earlier works; although technology plays an integral part of the story, affairs of the heart shine even brighter.
True Brighton, at age 49 and retired from active military service, brings plenty of experience to her role as Director of Operations for Requisite Operations Incorporated. She’s smart, seasoned, and able to see the big picture, whether that pertains to management of the cutting edge business or knowing how to handle a desperate father whose child has been kidnapped.
But when a hostage rescue uncovers new intel that sheds light on the death of True’s eldest son Diego, killed by terrorists while serving in Iraq, she finds herself at odds with the status quo that allowed her to come to terms with that loss. As the fallout from an ancillary bounty grab not only puts the ReqOp team in danger but also unmasks knowledge that the circumstances of her son’s death were covered up by those who she had trusted, True finds herself determined to learn the truth, even if it means crossing lines she herself had drawn in the sand.
The story is compelling, but how it is told is sheer genius. While the setting of The Last Good Man is obviously in the near future, enough of it is grounded in our reality so as to feel familiar; a believable forecast of where we are headed (as alarming as that might be). The beginning of the novel is a bit of a jumble of names and equipment, but it lays the groundwork which cements the action to come. The details are tight, and justifiable; as with the author’s “The Red” series, technology, so integral to the plot, becomes as second nature to the reader as it is to the characters who wield it.
But what truly shines in The Last Good Man is Ms. Nagata’s characters. They become real. And how brave is it to have the pivotal player in the book be an older woman, who acknowledges her impending limitations rather than railing against them? True retains the discipline and training of her youth and subsequent career, but not in an uber leet way; she feels authentic and honest, especially due to that age and experience. And it’s not just True – all of the characters in The Last Good Man, even the lesser ones, are rendered in far more gradient detail than one might expect of a book focused on fighting, intrigue and explosions.
But let me assure you that there is indeed plenty of fighting, intrigue and lots of explosions in The Last Good Man. And suspense. And drama, loyalty and camaraderie, with the occasional whoop-ass, interspersed with a whole lotta gadgets and gizmos and fighting machines that will astound and amaze – and terrify.
In other words, The Last Good Man excels on so many different levels, there is simply no reason for you not to experience it, regardless of your reading preferences. Honestly, it’s that good.