Atalanta (lothy) wrote in mayitbe_books,

A Soldier's Duty by Jean Johnson

Genre: military sci-fi

Synopsis: Ia is a precog, blessed - or cursed - with visions of the future. She has witnessed the devastation of her home galaxy three hundred years in the future, long after she is gone, but believes she can prevent it. Enlisting in the modern military of the Terran United Planets, Ia plans to rise through the ranks, meeting and influencing important people and building a reputation that will inspire others for the next three centuries.

Sequel: An Officer's Duty (forthcoming)

Book cover: I suppose it's okay - it does its job of conveying that the book is military sci-fi and the woman depicted does match how Ia is described in the novel.


I always enjoy reading Jean Johnson's novels because she seems to like a lot of the same things as I do - key among them strong, assertive female lead characters.

That, however, is both this novel's strongest point and its weakest. Ia is totally dedicated to her quest, she is strong and skilled and capable. She is interesting and likeable and heroic. The problem is - she never fails. It's annoying! Okay, so she can see every possible future and have that govern her actions, fair enough, and she has some other useful talents, but surely she can't be physically capable of averting every disaster! She may have basically superpowers but she's still just one person acting mostly by herself! I just wanted to see one single event which didn't go her way, where she was forced to realise her limitations, and it never happened.

Despite that, I still enjoyed the book. It had a bit of a slow start but once the novel really got going it was quite gripping. As I said, Jean Johnson seems to share a lot of my taste in fiction, so I loved seeing her write military sci-fi (her previous books were fantasy romance) and I liked the worldbuilding and the superpowers.

The military part of the novel was generally well handled (as far as I can tell, at least, not having served) although it did sometimes feel like the author had spent so long figuring out how the armed forces would work in her sci-fi context that she couldn't hold back from cramming it all into the text - I particularly could have done without the several pages describing how each type of weaponry worked, which I ended up mostly skipping from sheer boredom.

Overall, it felt like a good novel which could have used a bit of editing & rewriting, particularly to make the main character less annoyingly infallible. I will be buying the sequel when it comes out. Meanwhile, it's put me thoroughly in the mood for some Elizabeth Moon...
Tags: destiny, female lead, military sci-fi, science fiction, superpowers

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