Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Chaplain's War, by Brad Torgerson

5.0 out of 5 stars
Finally an enlisted hero who isn't infantry, and a new BEM!
January 27, 2015

This review is from: The Chaplain's War (Kindle Edition)
There is enough action in the book to satisfy shoot-em-up fans (and I'm one of these) but where this book really excels is in character development.
Now, I confess to being a non-impartial reader, because of the selection of the main character. Harrison Barlow is an enlisted man, serving as a chaplain's assistant. I'm third generation in a four generation family of U S Army enlisted. The hero in most military fiction is either an officer, or in the infantry, and Harrison Barlow is neither. He's just a guy, doing his job the best he knows how to do. And, in fact, that's what most people in the military are: just ordinary people doing their jobs. They take care of the mules, load the ammo, make sure that the water is clean, and only sometimes are on the front lines with a rifle. So: this speaks to my personal experience and family history, and therefore, I'm inclined to regard it with favor. But there are only five stars to award, not ten, and so my prejudices have little effect on that rating.
Here's what is marvelous about The Chaplain's War: it is an ENTIRELY NEW take on the Bug Eyed Monster. Sure, the BEMs are evil, wicked, mean and nasty; wait, no, they aren't. Yes they do kill the humans, they have overwhelming technology, but they aren't evil. They are just alien. What makes this treatment different from all the other BEMs that have come before is the way that they have been changed by their technology. Now, maybe Brad had some sort of hippie-dippie idea of making this a metaphor for 21st century man blah blah blah, but IF so, he hides it very well. It's NOT just a twist on man's inhumanity to man, or whatever the latest schtick is; it's a real story about real people, and real aliens who are definitely NOT human, but aren't either superhuman nor subhuman. They are just alien.
Now, apart from that original take on the aliens, and tghe fact that the hero is an enlisted man in a non-combat role, there is nothing original, but that's not a deficit. Just because Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers, it doesn't mean Buettner shouldn't write Orphanage. Basic training is basic training, but the stories are just as individual as a fingerprint. Tell it a million times. Ten million.
I've heard that some people have objected to the story because it has religious content. Well, bite me. You can't posibly tell a meaningful story about real people under stress without talking about how many of them turn to God to find meaning. If they are arguing that sci-fi is supposed to be escapist, and therefore shouldn't carry over any religious themes, I would invite them to devise an escape kit that doesn't have any items from the current reality. Like food, water, flashlights, and a good knife; those are not things found in the world we are escaping into. They are what makes it possible for the escape to be survivable. Brad's not demanding that every story about BEMs include a religious theme, but he does have the right to put a religious theme into his own work. I enjoyed it and found it both believable and an essential part of the story. If you don't like it, then be sure not to use the Force, but don't talk badly of it, or Lord Vader may find your lack of faith...disturbing...

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