Friday, 24 June 2011

I'm Back! And Review | Contra Alliance - Tom Kolega

I'm back from a short absence now, and there's quite a bit coming up on Drying Ink. I'll firstly be reviewing Contra Alliance - with reviews of Mark Charan Newton's rather excellent City of Ruin, as well as Iain M. Bank's Inversions coming up in the week. I've also got a few other features planned: I'll be reviewing Matt Hughes, author of the excellent The Damned Busters - which I've also reviewed on the blog. If you've got any suggestions for me, just email or comment below!

But first, review time:

I don't often read military SF, but I have to admit that it's a varied subgenre: and Contra Alliance falls firmly into the slightly smaller-scale, near-future end of it. It's set in 2035, with American dominance waning, and follows an elite - and secret - NATO organisation named CONTRA, focusing largely on a small group of soldiers, so the top-down perspective is rare here. The governments of Earth are facing the assault of a new terrorist group calling itself only 'The Revolution' (well, they've got the hang of fantasy capitalisation...) - an organisation with technology possibly more advanced than the rest of the planet...

Well, you've seen the obvious SF cue along with the rest of us: though the setting is relatively near-future, alien involvement - on both sides - is imminent. The narrative is focused around the Blues of the CONTRA group, but also around an ex-member, codenamed Battlestar, dismissed from the organization. Although the novel isn't primarily character-driven, I have to say that none of the central protagonists particularly stood out in the modern genre, filled with characters such as Miles Vorkosigan. Nevertheless, if you don't mind a few archetypes and relatively little time devoted to development, but prefer to focus on detailed military conflict, you may well enjoy Contra Alliance.

With regard to the writing itself, the novel is again solid! Although a frequent inclusion, there is a lot of overt exposition, which might have been integrated more fluidly - again though, it does help to give the book a very rapid start, so it's not all bad. I have to admit that I prefer more character-driven military SF, but that's very subjective - if you're up for an introduction to a version of our near-future universe, with a nicely-integrated endeavour (no more 'America saves the world alone'), then Contra Alliance may well be the book for you!

You can find Contra Alliance on Amazon: as an ebook (Contra Alliance: Shadows of the Past (The Contra Alliance Trilogy) or hardcover (Contra Alliance: Shadows of the Past (The Contra Alliance Trilogy, Book One)

Have you read this book, or just have something to say? Comment below with any ideas, suggestions, or general insults. :P


  1. I started this book, but didn't finish it. For me, it was too much telling, not enough showing, far too many characters, and not enough character development, even for an ensemble piece. I described it to a friend as a good military SF for a junior high school aged boy. Yes, there is plenty of action and guns (and boy does the author know his guns!), but very little blood or graphic violence.

  2. Yeah - as you probably saw, I mostly felt the same way, but I do think that more militarily-orientated readers who don't mind this sort of mass exposition may well enjoy it. It's not really my thing.