||Timberwolf Press and (later) Booklocker
||2002 and 2007
On their first combat mission the new recruits of Squad Beta are getting a chilling introduction to the Legion. The ultimate evil is awaiting them all, writhing in the shadows, merciless and all-powerful, and humanity itself is poised on the brink of extinction.
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Soldier of the Legion
Soldier of the Legion
A rough truce divides the known galaxy between the System, the despotic slave empire that rules the inner systems, and the Confederation of Free Worlds, claiming the awesome infinity of the Outvac frontier. When Squad Beta of the ConFree Legion drops onto the primitive world of Andrion 2 to counter a mysterious System incursion they know the Systies are out there somewhere, armored DefCorps soldiers waiting to slice them to bloody bits in a microfrac. The young immortal trooper Thinker vows that this will never happen on his watch. It soon becomes chillingly clear that Beta is facing more than Systies. The ultimate Evil is awaiting them all, writhing in the shadows, merciless and all-powerful, and humanity itself is poised on the brink of extinction.
As he travels further into the dark Thinker finds both love and death, and realizes that the Legion has always been his destiny. He is torn between his desire for the violently possessive Valkyrie and the sweet innocent Priestess. The squad is soon seeking its fate in a series of suicidal attacks on hostile planets against an enemy that has never known defeat. Beta One says they are going to change history, but Thinker doesn't care about history. He cares only about Beta and his closest comrades – and he knows that immortality will not ward off bullets.
Available in paperback, e-book and MP3 audio formats, full cast unabridged audio theater. This is Book 1 of the Soldier of the Legion series.
For sample chapters from Soldier of the Legion, see my website www.soldierofthelegion.com .
Book Think Review of Soldier of the Legion
Book Think, Issue 51, September 2005
Reviewed by Timothy Doyle
Soldier of the Legion
I may as well make it clear up front that I'm not a big fan of typical military SF. Examples of this sub-genre are often thinly veiled political manifestoes, often coupled with a gung-ho plot that reeks of 1950's (i.e., pre-Vietnam) sensibilities.
That said, there are examples of military SF that I would rank as among the best of the genre as a whole.
Joe Haldeman's The Forever War is a dazzling story of a war fought against an unknown enemy for unknown reasons. Due to time dilation effects, centuries of real time elapse during the ten years the soldiers experience in their war against the Taurans. In the end, the soldiers return home to find they have lost everything they've ever known, except each other, and that human civilization is nearly as alien as the enemy they were fighting. Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is a thought-provoking examination of the concept of "total war" and how far we would go if the very survival of the human species seemed to be at stake.
Marshall Thomas' Soldier of the Legion is set in a far future where the known galaxy enjoys an uneasy truce between the System, the inner core slaver empire, and the Confederation of Free Worlds. Protecting the interests of the ConFree is the Legion, a professional military corps that gives its soldiers very cool hardware and the best available biotechnology. In theory, a Legion soldier is immortal, though the odds of dieing in the next battle are significantly more likely. We follow the story of Beta Squad and of the soldier codenamed Thinker, so-called because of his tendency to think beyond the immediate demands of duty and survival. Recent graduates from the boot camp called Planet Hell (where the final exam is a no-holds barred assault and rescue mission on a slaver camp), Beta Squad members are deployed to investigate evidence of Systie activity in the backwater Andrion system. Treaty violations, slaver operations, primitive descendents of a lost human civilization, and the mysterious presence of monstrous non-native giant exosegs are the varied threads that combine to reveal a secret that will shatter the uneasy truce between the Systies and the ConFree.
And if that weren't bad enough, Thinker has managed to fall in love with two of his Legion comrades. When your jealous girlfriend is armed with Tacstar micro-nukes, all hell could quite literally erupt.
Thomas' Legion universe is richly imagined. As explained in my interview with Thomas, the novel was started in 1982 but did not see publication until some twenty years later. During that time, Thomas continued to refine and add detail to the backstory, including technology, politics, military tactics, history, religion, culture, aliens, and much, much more. Some of this information is available in the book in a ten page glossary, and there is much more available online at the author's website. The depth of this detailed background gives the universe that so very important "lived-in" feel.
As part of the publishing process, Soldier of the Legion went through a ruthless editing process in which long stretches of narrative were removed and the remainder rewritten. While Thomas is the first to admit that the novel as first written needed this editing in order to produce a publishable product, the result suffers slightly from a sometimes choppy, quick-cut plot line. There are a few transitions within the story where I sensed a big chunk had ended up on the cutting room floor. The effect is similar in some ways to SF novels that are fix-ups of previously published short stories, strung together to novel length.
As a young man, one of Thomas' favorite SF books was Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers. The influence is clearly visible in Soldier of the Legion, but Thomas has a better grasp of character. To be fair, Heinlein was competent at character development; it's just that, much like Woody Allen, he used the same cast (with different names) to populate all of his stories. Commenting on the importance of character, Thomas says, " ... stories are about people, and if the reader doesn't care about the characters, he will not care about the story."
Soldier of the Legion has a ton of action, interesting plot twists, and a rigorously detailed story line and background. The characters are memorable, and the series shows great promise of good things to come. Current plans are for a six part series. The second installment, The Black March, should be available from Timberwolf by the end of 2005. Soldier of the Legion is also available in a full-cast, 9 hour unabridged audio production, featuring a cast of 22, sound effects, and music. Available formats include cassette, CD and MP3
Soldier of the Legion - Book One of the Beta 3 Series Marshall S Thomas Publisher: Timberwolf Press (June, 2002) ISBN: 1587520397 Available in trade paperback or as a full-cast audio production in cassette, CD or MP3 format.
Soldier of the Legion
Reviewed by Nancy Mehl for MyShelf.com, September 2002
Soldier of the Legion
Beta 3, called "Thinker," because others see his capacity to reason even though he has been trained to react instantly as a part of a military team, is sent with his detachment to Andrion 2 to secure the planet. He is part of "The Legion," an army sworn to protect to the death. And death is the price a soldier of the Legion must be willing to pay to defend the Confederation of Free Worlds against the "System." Although an uneasy truce exists between "ConFree" and the System, unusual activity on Andrion 2 leads the Legion to speculate about possible illegal actions from the "Systies." Thinker is part of a unit. Each soldier has a unique personality. Some, Thinker is convinced, are insane. But in the Legion, they are brothers. One mind - one heart - and one life.
The planet is inhabited by a people the soldiers refer to rather derisively as "Scalers." These people, actually called the "Taka," attack the Legion. But, when they are saved by the soldiers from the disgusting exosegs, horrible, deadly creatures that aren't supposed to be on Andrion 2, the Taka declare their loyalty to the Legion.
What is happening on the planet? Are the Systies there? How did the exosegs get to Andrion 2? Nothing makes sense. Thinker's sense of alarm is muted by his desire for another soldier, Priestess - and the conflict he feels when a past love from his training days on Planet Hell shows up and declares that she and Thinker are tied together for eternity. Where is his heart? Does it belong to Priestess or Valkyrie? Is this emotional battle compromising his ability to sense danger? Thinker needs all of his wits and training - because there is a surprise on Andrion 2. One more diabolic and dangerous than any of the soldiers have prepared themselves for.
SOLDIER OF THE LEGION is a deep, rich story that captures the heart of Sci-fi while bringing the elements of suspense, mystery, horror, and romance together and blending them into a perfect story that everyone will enjoy. Thomas's talent as a writer shines through the action, making the dialogue captivating, and in many passages, moving. His protagonist, Thinker, may be involved in a life that few of us have experienced, but Thomas keeps Thinker so human that we are able to experience the joy, the pain, and the fear that a soldier of the Legion endures while putting his or her life on the line without question.
I highly recommend SOLDIER OF THE LEGION, one the best books I've read this year! Watch for the next books in this exciting series!
Laurel's Bookshelf - Soldier of the Legion
Midwest Book Review Bookwatch, Laurel's Bookshelf, September 2002, by Laurel Johnson
Soldier of the Legion
"A rough truce divides the known galaxy between the System, the despotic slave empire that rules the inner systems, and the Confederation of Free Worlds." That brief beginning blurb on the back cover of this book did not prepare me for the exciting read I found in Soldier Of The Legion . Heart pounding action, mind blowing battles and adrenalin pumping encounters with alien life. Mr. Thomas packs that and more into this futuristic sci fi masterpiece.
From first page to last, the action stopped just long enough to let me catch my breath. The story unfolds through the eyes of Thinker, a Legion warrior who joined up after a broken romance. Thinker and his fellow warriors are kept young and strong, immortal, through biotechnology beyond our present imagination. The barren worlds they face and alien life they battle become real through the author's creative mind and skillful writing style.
Horrific other-worldly combat assignments come alive through Mr. Thomas's prose. Eerie images of fire and destruction dance on the face plates of their armor as our heroic warriors slog their way through blood, fire, slime, and body parts to hard-won victories. From fossilized cities that once housed vanished civilizations, to violent volcanic worlds, Thinker and his Beta unit take on forces that are bent on destroying life. All human life. These immortal warriors face horror and human degradation beyond imagination. But ruthless slavers and hives of terrifying alien maneaters barely prepare them for the scourge of all creation, the soulless Omnis.
Times of respite are few and far between for soldiers of the Legion. Thinker has the violently possessive Valkyrie and tender-hearted Priestess to take his mind off warring. Except for those rare occasions, Thinkers mind is seldom far from thoughts of battles, past and future. It's the way of the Legion.
At the end of Soldier Of The Legion , the author sets us up for what will no doubt be an equally exciting sequel. If what follows is as good as his first, Marshall Thomas should soon be a major name in futuristic sci fi. I enthusiastically recommend this book to fans of the genre as well as those who simply enjoy excellent story telling.
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