Ironclads by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Publisher - Solaris

Published - Out Now

Price - £4.72 Kindle ebook

Scions have no limits

Scions do not die

Scions do not disappear

Sergeant Ted Regan has a problem. A song of one of the great corporate families, a Scion, has gone missing at the front. He should have been protected by his Ironclad – the lethal battle suits that make the Scions masters of war – but something has gone catastrophically wrong.

Now Regan and his men, ill-equipped and demoralised, must go behind enemy lines, find the missing Scion, and uncover how his suit failed. Is there a new Ironclad killer out there? And how are common soldiers lacking the protection afforded the rich supposed to survive the battlefield of tomorrow?

War, huh, what is it good for? Well science fiction would a be a lot quieter without it for a start. How they start, how they finish and what causes them are fears that we definitely worry about each morning at them moment in the twenty first century and how many of us like to check our social media feeds just to confirm all is still as it was before we slept? In this fast-paced novella Adrian Tchaikovsky gives a near future SF military thriller where a small team of soldiers are plunged into a very dangerous international conflict.

Later in our century a series of global conflicts have erupted around the world. The US Government is now bolstered by the powerful corporations and attempts to remove their power and attempt to deliver anything that could be described as democratic socialism are being ruthlessly stamped out be in Canada, The US or in this particular novel Scandinavia! While the US is always happy to throw standard military units into battle their cutting edge is literally supplied by the power of the ironclads. Corporations have created supreme battle suits/exo-skeletons for the Heads of Corporations to a) destroy all opposition and b) protect themselves as they take the lead in combat. One of the Scions can turn a battle into your favour so they’re highly prized. The Scions are however disturbed when one going to a recent conflict zone in Finland vanishes.  This is not supposed to happen…ever. S small and quite dysfunctional team of soldiers are assembled, and their simple finish seek and retrieve a Scion.

It’s a disturbingly plausible Europe riven by brexits ahem splits and countries and corporations vying for power.  All too believable that the world has gone down the track of dog eat dog. Tchaikovsky adds in clever SF twists such as insect drone swarms and in particular the mysterious Finns who seem to have embraced complex biological science. A worthy threat for the robotic Scions who until now are the shock troops able to destroy simpler armies single handed.

All of this is told through Regan who has an upfront honesty about the world they live in and perhaps has learnt initially at least not to ask many questions. He serves as a reminder that for all the world and business leaders scrambling in armour the average joe still wants to survive and make a living. As the story progresses we see he and his group are not seen as much more than a tool but perhaps they too are underestimated. My only reservation is the way the book paints this world and all its future history such as the US/Canadian wars you almost wish we could take a step back but that would probably overstep the bounds of what a novella can do.

As always with Tchaikovsky take its clever, has something to say about humanity and a well-crafted story.  While a short tale I think most readers will be more than happy to take a trip to Scandinavia with the troops and then be glad they can return to the future.