“We have always been here…”
Synopsis of Big Red
Traumatized by the effects of Compression travel, soldier Darren Loughlin holds the key to the fate of Earth’s Martian colonies. With his Battalion decimated, his fractured memory holds the only clues to the colony-wide communications blackout.
With time running out, Darren pieces together his year-long tour of duty with the Mars Occupation Force. Stationed in the Nazi-founded New Berlin colony, ruled by the brutal MARSCORP, he recounts his part in the vicious, genocidal war against the hostile alien natives and all who question Terran supremacy.
But as his memories return, Darren suspects he is at the centre of a plot spanning forty years. He has one last mission to carry out. And his alien enemies may be more human than he is…
I am always looking for interesting new stories, no matter the genre. I have always been a huge sci-fi fan since my early childhood, in the halcyon days of seeing Star Wars in the theater on its original run in 1977 as a kid, to watching shows like Space 1999 and Battle of the Planets on Saturday mornings. I love it when an author will try something outside the box, not trying to make another Star Wars knockoff or gritty space opera, but instead, take a bunch of different elements and blend them into a story all their own. This book has so many elements I love in sci-fi: time travel, consciousness transfer, an alien menace, and oh, lest I forget, escaped Nazis on Mars. Who could ask for more?
The characters are such a great part of this story. Darren Loughlin is the main protagonist, an Irish veteran who joins a special military unit that he discovers will transfer his consciousness across time and space into a clone body on Mars, where the MOF, Mars Occupation Force, is in control of New Berlin, the hidden refuge of a bunch of escaped Nazis. They also have to face off against hostile bug aliens on Mars, who seem to be a threat to all mankind. He is a natural leader, and as time passes on Mars, grows into that leadership, as many strange occurrences make him question everything he thinks he knows. This is especially true when his mind is thrown back into his real body after some catastrophic event on Mars, and his fragmented consciousness slowly recalls for his superiors what happened there. This ties into bigger events overall, and leads on a hell of a ride.
The secondary characters are just as good. There a re a range of fellow soldiers serving with Darren, who all have to face the same hardships, from the alien menace to incompetent and petty officers. You can tell there is trouble brewing, and which way they go will depend on many factors. The reason they have to occupy Mars, the Nazi’s, are portrayed in a very realistic fashion. They act like the way you would expect them to act, with resentment and tension at times flaring to violence, and it’s not hard to see they aren’t taking their reduced fortunes well. They are just as bad as you expect them to be, and the author makes no real attempt to try and make them redeemable, because these are the people that did so much damage to Europe and murdered millions of people all those years ago. Some things are unforgivable, and sometimes a deal with the devil is just that.
The final arc of the story is where things take a sharp turn, as Darren’s memories return fully and you find out just what has happened on Mars. You also discover that all is not as it seems, and some of the characters have gone in completely unexpected direction because of the revelations of what has occurred. A conspiracy wrapped in an enigma that is explosive when unwrapped, and all these characters have to deal with finding that things might not be what they seemed for so long.
This book could have fallen apart with so many sci-fi tropes involved. Instead, with a deft touch, this talented writer, in his debut novel no less, manages to avoid pitfalls that have snared many more experienced authors. He does a great job mixing the elements of the story with the characters, and creates a realistic world that seems like an interesting mix of past, present and future tech that really effects how the characters can respond to different situations. The conspiracies that are uncovered truly shock, and the effects they have are devastating. This is a story that will have so much appeal for sci-fi fans and fans of Military sci-fi, and for fans of of good storytelling in general. It’s quite obvious the author’s experience in the Irish military was useful, because all of the military elements are as realistic as possible. I highly recommend this book, and look forward to reviewing it’s sequel/prequel, Blood Red Sand. Check it out today.
Rating: 9.75/10 Stars