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Light Brigade

Coming March 19, 2019

From the Hugo Award­­-winning author of The Stars Are Legion comes a brand-new science fiction thriller about a futuristic war during which soldiers are broken down into light in order to get them to the front lines on Mars.

They said the war would turn us into light. 

The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back…different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief—no matter what actually happens during combat.

Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think is going on.

Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero—or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference.

 

Praise

“Hurley is one of the most important voices in the field, and The Light Brigade is some of her best work. This is the real thing.”

—James S.A. Corey, author of The Expanse series

(STARRED REVIEW) Like Billy Pilgrim from Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Hurley’s protagonist, Dietz, becomes “unstuck in time,” bouncing from battle to battle in this brutal futuristic exploration into the meaninglessness of war and the legacies of corporate greed.

This book is full of such deliberate cultural references, beginning with the title’s allusion to the famously doomed charge during the Crimean War. Here, it’s also a nickname for the soldiers of the Corporate Corps who have a bad reaction to their deployments via teleportation, ending up not quite where—or when—they expected to go. Despite being neglected or abused by the corporations that run the devastated Earth, Dietz joined the corps (and unwittingly, the Light Brigade) in the war against Mars after that planet’s independent settlers apparently made millions of people disappear from São Paolo, all of Dietz’s family among them. When called to active duty, Dietz (gender unspecified for most of the book, but you’ll figure it out fairly soon) experiences missions out of sequence with linear time, losing and regaining comrades, ordered to perform morally dubious actions which don’t seem to lead to victory, and gradually collecting information that strongly suggests that the enemy is not whom Dietz was told it was. Does the war have an end? Is the future predetermined? Is Dietz trapped in a fixed but fractured loop of existence, or is there a means of escape? As always, Hurley (Apocalypse Nyx, 2018, etc.) is plausibly unflinching about the damage inflicted by the power hungry on those they delegate to carry out their schemes, but thankfully, she doesn’t leave her readers in utter despair, either.

A fascinating and brilliantly confusing journey that ultimately ends, as is appropriate, in illumination. Rereads will be both necessary and desirable.

Kirkus reviews

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (STARRED REVIEW) Hugo winner Hurley’s second futuristic novel (after The Stars Are Legion) is a smart, brutal, and structurally sophisticated military science fiction tale with a time travel twist. Infantry recruit Dietz is a “ghoul,” someone who’s denied access to basic social benefits provided by the squabbling megacorporations that dominate the solar system. After Martian separatists destroy her city, she enlists as a corporate military grunt. Dietz is broken down into light particles and beamed into combat zone after combat zone. But unlike her squadmates, she begins experiencing her combat drops—and the entire war—out of order. Hurley’s time travel mechanics are intricate but never alienating, and they perfectly serve this story of “poor ageless grunts” caught in war’s unending loop. Much of the drama comes from Dietz’s growing disillusionment with the war, and her heartbreaking camaraderie with squadmates whose deaths she has already experienced. Like Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, this book is both a gripping story of future warfare and an incisive antiwar fable. Readers will savor this striking novel’s ambitious structure and critique of rapacious, militarized capitalism. Agent: Hannah Bowman, Liza Dawson Assoc. (Mar.)

Publisher's Weekly

Starship Troopers meets Edge of Tomorrow. A grim and gritty future where wars are fought between corporations and the rest of us are ground in the machinery, but there’s room for hope, and heroes, and a call for us all to be the light in dark times. The juggling of timelines here is incredibly impressive. Hurley makes what must have been a beast of a book to write look easy, and never boring. The pacing perfect and the revelation of secrets upon secrets satisfying. Hurley is at the top of her game. Highly recommend.

—Rebecca Roanhorse, author of TRAIL OF LIGHTNING

(STARRED REVIEW) Hurley’s latest (after Apocalypse Nyx, 2018) presents a future where the government consists of six massive corporations and society is divided into corporate citizens and the dispossessed, status-less “ghouls.” The Six and their private armies are waging a war against the colonists of Mars after the Martians reportedly made the entire population of São Paulo disappear in “the Blink.” To transport their soldiers in and out of combat, the Six use an experimental technology to break down their bodies into light and re-materialize at their destination. Dietz, a soldier and former ghoul whose family and ex-girlfriend disappeared in the Blink, is eager to become part of the war effort. On her first drop, however, she starts
experiencing events and history seemingly out of order, going on missions she’s never heard of with soldiers she’s never even met. Mixing a gritty and muscular writing style with an intricate and timehopping plot with echoes of Philip K. Dick’s Now Wait For Last Year, The Light Brigade is an enthralling portrait of a devastated near future. Highly recommended for not only sf fans but anyone interested in a thrilling and troubling vision of the future.

—Booklist