Author: Marko Kloos
Genre: science fiction, military
Price: $2.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Frostbite Publishing
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
Several of the bloggers I read mentioned favorably Marko Kloos’ new novel Terms of Enlistment. Since it was a $2.99 ebook, I took a flyer on it and bought a copy. This proved to be a good investment. I had to admit, I didn’t think it would be as interesting as it proved to be.
Exhibit A for my concern is this “back of the cover” copy: The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you're restricted to 2,000 calories of badly flavored soy every day. You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service.
This sounded a lot like one of hundreds of 1970s and early 1980s “Earth as armpit of universe” stories with small colonial wars – the kind of stuff Jerry Pournelle and David Drake made a living off of. And the first third of the book – Andrew Goes to Boot Camp – was true to form.
Then things went from “routine” to “really interesting.” The first really interesting thing was that Andrew got stuck in the Territorial Army, which was stationed on Earth. There, he got into a really interesting Mogadishu-style fight in Detroit, one in which the inhabitants of the tenements had significantly heavier weapons and better tactics than they were supposed to have. A mystery was created.
Having created that mystery, the author then walks away from it. Kloos has Andrew get his dream gig – assigned to a Space Fleet frigate with his girlfriend from boot camp – and ships him off to space. There, on arrival at Andrew’s first extrasolar planet, surprise number two happens, creating another mystery. Like many self-published authors releasing their first book, Kloos has one sequel in the can and ready to come out, and other sequels are in the pipeline, so we are promised that both mysteries will be addressed in the coming books.
Which is good, because I found Terms of Enlistment a very interesting and well-written book. Kloos has cleared all the technical errors of copy-editing, but more importantly his characters are well-developed and believable. The pacing of the story is fair – the boot camp segment drags a bit – but that’s a quibble. I finished the book in one sitting, which is my personal standard for grabbing my attention.
Kloos said that he was unable to get a publisher interested in his work, and I think I see why – Terms, although a great read, is structurally a “fix-up” piece. Fix-ups were common in the early days of science fiction, and are books where an author takes multiple smaller works and slightly modifies them to become one novel-length work. In this case, Kloos has two novellas that he’s ported into one book. The seam between the novellas is pretty obvious, but for me (and most readers) I don’t think that’s an issue. It’s only a problem for commercial publishers. Overall, I highly recommend Terms of Enlistment.