47North, 2015, 352 pages
The alien forces known as the Lankies are gathering on the solar system's edge, consolidating their conquest of Mars and setting their sights on Earth. The far-off colony of New Svalbard, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by the Lanky blockade, teeters on the verge of starvation and collapse. The forces of the two Earth alliances have won minor skirmishes but are in danger of losing the war. For battle-weary staff sergeant Andrew Grayson and the ragged forces of the North American Commonwealth, the fight for survival is entering a catastrophic new phase.
Forging an uneasy alliance with their Sino-Russian enemies, the NAC launches a hybrid task force on a long shot: a stealth mission to breach the Lanky blockade and reestablish supply lines with Earth. Plunging into combat against a merciless alien species that outguns, outmaneuvers, and outfights them at every turn, Andrew and his fellow troopers could end up cornered on their home turf, with no way out and no hope for reinforcement. And this time the struggle for humanity's future can end only in either victory or annihilation.
Marko Kloos was originally one of the 2015 Hugo nominees, but withdrew his nomination (for the second book in the "Frontlines" series, Lines of Departure) over the Sad Puppies kerfuffle.
I didn't really think Lines of Departure (or any of these books) was Hugo material, but it is great military SF that, unlike other milSF series I've started, continues to hold my interest after three books. Each book has provided major plot twists and increased stakes, expanded the futuristic multi-national universe of the Earth Commonwealth, and developed characters alongside Staff Sergeant Andrew Grayson who are not flat archetypes or caricatures, but living, breathing people who actually act like they are in the military. Not an idealized Marine Corps PR poster military or a grimdark butchers military, but a military of grunts and space swabbies.
In the last book, SSG Grayson and his combined detachment of Fleet personnel and exiled Home Defense troops were abandoned in the last book on the icy world of New Svalbard in the Fomalhaut system. With the help of a civilian scientist, they managed to destroy a semi-invulnerable Lanky seedship, and formed an alliance with the surviving remnants of their Sino-Russian adversaries.
Angles of Attack, the third book in the series, picks up immediately after Lines of Departure. SSG Grayson joins the crew of the Indianapolis, a stealth ship, on a trip back to Earth, which involves flying through a transfer point whose coordinates are known only to the Sino-Russians, and possibly facing Lanky ships when they emerge. Their mission is to inform the fleet back home of the situation on New Svalbard and bring back supplies.
Their journey to Earth, naturally, is eventful, and when they arrive, they find the the fleet appears to be abandoning the homeworld, and does not want to let the Indianapolis leave. Grayson and his team are beginning to make a habit of mutinying against a clueless high command...
The war against the Lankies is, of course, not resolved in this book. Andrew Grayson's career continues to take unexpected turns, but unlike many similar series, he doesn't keep getting promoted to larger and larger roles — he remains an NCO. So far, he doesn't seem to be on a path to becoming a starship captain or admiral; he's just a ground-pounder at heart. Kloos captures the "months of boredom punctuated by moments of screaming terror" that characterizes being a soldier, while writing military characters who are neither civilians in uniform nor flinty-eyed killing machines.
Verdict: Angles of Attack is a great combination of space warfare, alien-killing ground combat, and politics, and while I do hope the author will conclude this series eventually, it remains on my must-read list. 9/10.
Also by Marko Kloos: My reviews of Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure.
My complete list of book reviews.