Title: The Red: First Light
Author: Linda Nagata
Genre: science fiction
Price: $6.99 (ebook) / $14 (paperback)
Publisher: Mythic Island Press
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
According to Lieutenant James Shelley, USA, “there needs to be a war going on somewhere.” Lt. Shelley is the main character in Linda Nagata’s Nebula-nominated novel The Red: First Light, and he leads a squad of electronically-linked soldiers fighting a brush war in Africa. The war was started by DCs – defense contractors – in order to keep profits up, and since money isn’t worth dying for, Shelley’s chief goal is to keep his troops alive.
Unfortunately, war is inherently unpredictable, even to somebody with a flawless sense of imminent danger – as if God was whispering in his ear. After the low-grade brush war Shelley is fighting gets hotter, his girlfriend suspects that “God” is really a machine – an AI loose in the Cloud of the Internet. Alas, so does one of America’s “dragons” – the rich owner of a DC who has bought the Federal government.
In short, Lt. Shelley’s life is complicated and getting more so. The Red: First Light is a roller-coaster ride from crisis to crisis, and Linda Nagata is our expert coaster operator. One does not get on the Nebula short ballot by writing bad books, and as the first-ever self-published book in the final running The Red is far from bad.
One of the problems in writing action fiction is making interesting and believable characters. Nagata has made that problem look easy. She’s also painted an all-too-realistic picture of a scary near-future world in which wealth controls governments and individuals. In addition to all of that, Nagata takes on the problem of epistemic closure. This is the concept that, because of the Internet, we all can talk and listen to only people who agree with us, leading us to think that we are a majority.
In short, The Red: First Light is both a novel of action and ideas, and a worthy edition to anybody’s bookshelf. Highly recommended.