“Why bother?” “That response is unsatisfactory, Gunnery Sergeant Wolf Mathison. Marines improvise, adapt, and overcome. They don’t roll over and give up.”
What is God’s of War about?
The mission was supposed to be his last.
After more than 20 years in special operations, USMC Gunnery Sergeant Wolf Mathison wasn’t looking forward to retirement when—implanted with an experimental artificial intelligence—he deployed on his last mission with a platoon of Marine Raiders being sent to the Jovian moon Europa.
The USS Jefferson was destroyed en route, though, and only Mathison and three other marines survived. Trapped in stasis, they were hurled into the outer reaches of the solar system, where they wouldn’t be found for hundreds of years.
Meanwhile, on Earth, the United States is destroyed and a fascist regime rises to power, expanding into the galaxy to plant its boot heel on the necks of humanity. But SOG, the Social Organizational Governance, is not unopposed, and researchers at a top-secret research outpost are working on a solution that will let SOG reign supreme. Unfortunately for the marines, they’re awakened from stasis at the same time the researchers awaken a threat that endangers the entire human race.
The odds are against them, but that’s nothing new for the Marine Raiders.
Semper fidelis and semper invictus!
As a big fan of military sci-fi and space opera, books like God’s of War just stand out to me. The fact that William Frisbee wrote it is also a huge selling point for me. So when I saw God’s of War was available on Audible, I immediately got it for a work listen. Well, I have to say that this is easily one of the most engaging stories I listened to in 2022.
The world building is interesting, in that it takes place in two timelines. The story starts in 2088 in Papua New Guinea, as the US fights China and its asiatic allies in a sort of proxy war. Its interesting to see how the technology in development now is fully integrated and advanced in 2088. From cybernetic AI implants, small area effect EMP weapons, powered armor and stealth fields, the military of the future is still recognizable, although some of the things that the military and society are currently wrestling with have reached their crescendo, not necessarily for the better. The conflict between the capitalist west and the socialist east is coming to a head, and the marines in Papua New Guinea are at the knifes edge, putting their lives on the line against the drugged fanatical Chinese soldiers.
A trip to space for the Marine Raiders for reassignment to Jupiter’s moon Europa leads to the switch to the year 2400 and a much different situation. A situation of space colonies across the spiral arm, with an Earth now run by the socialist successors of the Asiatic league who are out to destroy any dissenters to their rule. There are a couple groups still fighting, but they are on the back foot losing ground. There is also the discovery of mysterious ancient alien technology that has the potential to change everything, although in which way is still unknown.
This world building is supplemented by some great characters. Gunnery Sergeant Wolf Matheson is the main character, the epitome of the salty dog veteran senior NCO. The kind of guy who’s been there, done that, and bears the scars both physical and mental. He’s not interested in any more promotions, since he’d have to leave the field and basically push papers at higher ranks. He’s a ground pounder, and while he isn’t marking time waiting for retirement, he knows he’s basically on his last assignment before forced retirement. He’s struggling with what comes next, but the trip to space changes that, and when he awakens in the year 2400, he has to deal with a universe changed and everything he knew dead and gone. He reads as a complex human, fully developed and relatable.
The supporting cast is excellent. There is Skadi, a rebel commando leader from 2400 who is a strong, merciless warrior who has seen her world pushed to the brink by the Earth forces, and will do whatever it takes to complete her missions and keep her people safe. There is Sif, a mysterious leader of Skadi’s people who is more than she seems, and seems to have otherworldly knowledge and skills. There are other members of Skadi’s and Wolf’s team that add some flavor to the story, but the real seasoning to the supporting cast is Private Zale Stathis. He is the distillation of millennia of a military trope: The dumb private. Always there to ask a dumb question or make an inappropriate joke, Stathis is the bane of Gunny Matheson’s patience and sanity. The kind of guy who gets demoted over the dumbest infractions, he’s the kind of person you can’t trust on liberty leave not to end up in jail on a drunk and disorderly charge. With that said, he is the kind of troop that’s a life taker and heart breaker in combat, being extremely competent in his job with lives on the line. it’s the difference in these two facets of his character that really makes him stand out, and adds a lot of the story’s humor to boot. Overall, the characters are some of the best I’ve come across in military sci-fi, and I look forward to their further adventures.
The audio book narration is performed by John Pirhalla. A prolific performer, I was familiar with his work from quite a few other books. He is one of my favorite narrators, so this was an easy sale. He is excellent at bringing a real emotional resonance to his character voices, giving them each their own unique personality. His narrative pacing is some of the best in the business, never lagging or becoming a monotone, but is very lively and keeps the listener engaged. I highly recommend checking this version out.
With it’s combination of action packed plot, great world building and deep characters, this is one of those stories the reader can really get immersed into. It’s easily as good as anything being put out by traditional publishing houses, and is a great addition to the abundance of Indie military sci-fi that is gaining in popularity. The author’s military experience shines throughout the story, and adds a great level of grit and realism to the story. There’s no handwavium to make the story and tech make sense, its just a logical extrapolation of where current tech will go in the future. This is a story I highly recommend, and is in my top ten reads of 2022.
Top 10 book of 2022