I picked up The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata at the end of last year. It sounded pretty interesting – the world of war has changed with fewer soldiers and a lot more automation. We follow True Brighton and Requisite Operations – a private military contractor.
So, I kind of liked it. I liked getting to the end of it, the last 20% of the book was quite compelling. However, it took me a long time to get there because the beginning was a bit of a slog. I think this is because I really didn’t buy the characters or the world building.
The cover was pretty nice though.
What I found hard was the idea of Requisite Operations itself and their whole idea of ‘right action.’ Basically, they are supposed to be private military contractors but with a heart of gold and an ethical standard. And…I just can’t buy it. They are all too good. They all do the right thing all the time, like rescue people taken hostage by terrorists. There’s a reward but they do it because its the right thing to do. I just can’t imagine a high-tech military option (that needs to make a profit) really making those kind of calls. But fine, you need characters to like. Fine.
The book also does the thing I hate – random sexual violence. In this case, the one persons they are hired to rescue is being held hostage by a terrorist organisation. And lo and behold, the doctor has been forced to sleep with the main bad guy (and ends of pregnant). It is handled with some tact, there is clearly an attempt to convey the psychological impact this would have on a person. HOWEVER, one of the other people they rescue is a journalist – and he actually is part of the whole plot. He also has psychological trauma. WHY NOT JUST HAVE THAT BE THE THING? Why do we have to have a woman subjected to sexual violence just to make it a ‘right action’. They are already too good to be true, they could have done it for any reason.
There were other ‘male gaze-y’ type weirdness (despite the book being written by a woman). For example: “She peels off her shirt. Why not? It’s the closet thing she has to a net and there’s nothing shocking underneath. Just a beige bra precisely engineered to secure her small breasts while making her look good.”
I mean, was that description really necessary? I found because True was older, there was an emphasis on the fact that she was still trim and fit. It was a bit over-egging it all in my opinion.
The end was really good – it was True going off and being pretty badass. However, there was a lot of clunky dialogue and people looking at each other angrily before that. Lots of stuff not really happening. Where there were actions scenes, I found them interesting without being overly prescriptive. I also didn’t get all the betrayal stuff and everyone being a bit dickish to each other but then, you know, fighting the bad guys and then everything was fine. There just wasn’t enough there for me to believe it.
Maybe others will find these things less irksome. But I didn’t read the book for weeks because I was tired of True being angry and Lincoln being growly. I just wanted a good story, which finally came near the end. However, I still don’t believe in the world and find almost all the characters entirely unrealistic. The most enjoyable and almost believable part was all the futuristic tech. That was pretty cool.
Anyway, finally finished so I can pick up a new book! This one was blocking me from picking up another one. Woo!