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Veteran
Gavin Smith
Gollancz, 416 pages

Veteran
Gavin Smith
Gavin Smith was born in Dundee in the same year that Iron Butterfly recorded "Inna-Gadda-da-Vida." He has also lived in Camberley, Hayling Island, Portsmouth, Hull, Leamington Spa and is currently living a near feral existence in Leicester. He has a degree in writing for film and a Masters in medieval history. Veteran is his first novel.

Gavin Smith Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Katherine Petersen

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Jakob Douglas fought alien enemies he didn't understand for years before being dishonorably discharged for his part in a mutiny. But now his former CO has called him back into service. Veteran by Gavin Smith is a thrilling, action-packed sci-fi debut that takes place 300 years in the future. The war with the aliens has lasted 60 years and an end is nowhere in sight. But now one of Them has turned up in Jakob's hometown of Dundee, and he's the closest hope of destroying it.

Armed with implanted knives and other cyber weapons, Jakob starts out following orders, but it isn't long before he goes astray, creating his own band of rebels set on a wholly different mission, going against his sworn duty. Morag, a prostitute-turned-hacker joins him along with other ex-soldiers many of whom think the answer is turning the net into God. I realize this sounds a bit confusing, but the plot is complicated as are Smith's characters and summarizing isn't easy.

Jakob tells the story in the first-person, so what we learn and see is mostly from his viewpoint. While the world is technologically advanced, we see mostly devastation and the poor: the Riggs, a city of ships packed so closely together that one can walk from one to another; cities built from materials at hand; a New York flooded and an entity unto itself; and Crawling Town, a constantly moving town comprised of different gangs that moves steadily across the Eastern U.S. Jakob moves from one place to the other, fighting where necessary as his CO and an assassin known as the Grey Lady dogs his every step.

But Veteran is more than just an action novel. Smith has given readers complex characters and concepts to enjoy and contemplate and surprises aplenty. Mixed in with present action, Smith inserts flashbacks into Jakob's past, exploring his life as a soldier, all of which are brought to life even if many are a bit disturbing.

Smith excels at characterization but also at building relationships amongst his characters, especially between Jakob and Morag. Jakob tries to have her play the role of helpless female, but she doesn't comply. He handles the aliens with aplomb as well. Rich with intense visualizations, spot-on dialogue and thoroughly fleshed-out characters, Veteran is a veritable feast for fans of science fiction. My only quibble is that I'd like to have seen a better balance between actions scenes and the slower ones. While the slower-paced scenes are necessary, they seem to drag a little compared with the intensity of the others. Overall though, I highly recommend this novel; it's different from anything I've read, and I felt a participant more than an observer, always the sign of a talented writer.

Copyright © 2011 Katherine Petersen

Katherine Petersen started reading as a young child and hasn't stopped. She still thinks she can read all the books she wants, but might, at some point, realize the impossibility of this mission. While she enjoys other genres, she thrives on fantasy, science fiction and mysteries.


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