I picked up Marko Kloos’ military sci-fi Frontlines series after the second book in the series was nominated for the Hugo in 2015, and I was immediately glad that I had.
The first book, Terms of Enlistment, is a classic rags-to-boot camp story in the veins of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers or Brad Torgersen’s The Chaplain’s War.1 Our protagonist escapes the bottom rung of a dystopian-leaning, near-future Earth and enters the morally ambiguous realm of colonial conflict.
In the second book, Lines of Departure, Kloos took everything that worked in the first one and then made it even better. This made Lines of Departure an example of the best that military sci-fi has to offer, with innovative plots twists that kept things interesting and serious themes that added a bit of gravity to the action scenes.2
Ultimately, Marko Kloos decided to retract Lines of Departure from consideration due to the controversy surrounding the nominations that year. I thought that was sad (because the book deserved to be up for consideration on its own merits), but it was Kloos’ retraction that led to The Three-Body Problem making the final list and eventually winning, and I thought that was the best possible outcome for the 2015 Hugos.
I liked the first two books so much that I immediately picked up Angles of Attack as well. It was very good, but it didn’t rise to the exceptional level of Lines of Departure. Instead, it was on the level of Terms of Enlistment: good, but not great. The action and competent prose was there, and the stakes are still high, but the philosophical problems of the second book were absent. Without those, there wasn’t much to set it apart from the crowd of military sci-fi books.3
Don’t get me wrong, I’m really looking forward to picking up Chains of Command when it comes out in April. This is a great series for anyone who enjoys military sci-fi. But Angles of Attack doesn’t rise to the level of Hugo consideration in my books.