47North, 2017, 280 pages
The time has come to take the fight to the Lankies.
Mars has been under Lanky control for more than a year. Since then, the depleted forces of Earth's alliances have rebuilt their fleets, staffing old warships with freshly trained troops. Torn between the need to beat the Lankies to the punch and taking enough time to put together an effective fighting force, command has decided to strike now.
Once again, seasoned veterans Andrew and Halley find themselves in charge of green troops and at the sharp tip of the spear as the combined military might of Earth goes up against the Lankies. But if there's one constant in war, it's that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy...and the Lankies want to hold on to Mars as badly as humanity wants to reclaim it.
I've enjoyed Marko Kloos's Frontlines series, but this book, while okay as a military-SF romp with lots of shit blowing up, felt a bit like the author is just milking the ongoing war with the Lankies to keep the series going.
The first few books had more stuff about Earth politics, with the protagonist, Andrew Grayson, rising from a hard-knocks existence in future-Earth's city-sized ghettos to a senior NCO in the North American Commonwealth's space forces, fighting off both aliens and Russian and Chinese rivals. Eventually the Commonwealth, the Russians, and the Chinese ally against the common threat - a race of kaiju-sized extra-solar invaders who have been landing on Earth's colonies and terraforming the human inhabitants to extinction.
The fifth book in the series picks up where book four ended, with the Lankies occupying Mars. Book five is all about the campaign to retake Mars.
Aside from a brief excursion to Grayson's wealthy in-laws' home on Earth, where we learn that rich people are still living in comfortable upper-middle-class bubbles protected from both poor people and aliens, oblivious to the existential threat to humanity, Fields of Fire is basically one long war story. Kloos tells this story well, and he continues to keep us invested in SSG Grayson's life, as well as the growing cast of secondary characters, like his gay Russian counterpart and his fighter jock wife. But book five, despite its climactic ending, basically ended with the war against the Lankies being stuck in stalemate. Presumably it will continue in the next book, but there were no big revelations, no radical changes in the status quo, nothing to indicate that the series won't continue to be "Earthlings go fight aliens, blow shit up, some of them die, wash, rinse, repeat."
I don't want to sound too negative as I still enjoy this series, but a bit of staleness is beginning to creep in, as is often the case with a series that goes on for book after book without bringing the main story arc to conclusion. Step it up, end the war, and begin another series, Mr. Kloos!
Also by Marko Kloos: My reviews of Terms of Enlistment, Lines of Departure, Angles of Attack, and Chains of Command.
My complete list of book reviews.