SPOILER ALERT!

The Fighter King

The Fighter King - John Bowers, Joseph Bowers, Howard Milligan, Sololos

Hmmm.

 

The good: This is pretty well written, for an indie book, the style is easy to read and moves along briskly. The fight scenes are well done, in fact, considering this is sci-fi set on another planet, there's an unexpectedly good depiction of trench warfare. Many of the characters are quite likeable and the author has a way of painting characters quickly with few words.

 

However.... 

 

I just can't really recommend this, for so many reasons. Which sounds a little uncharitable given that I did quite enjoy large chunks of it, but the problems are very problematic. 

 

(Trigger warning: Please don't read further if discussion of rape, racism, slavery and violence are issues.)

 

 

Firstly the enemies are the result of several hundred years of settlement on a colony planet by neo-nazis, white supremacists and southern confederates. The secret police are called the KK, the planet keeps slaves, and at the beginning of the story is planning to invade a neighbouring colony planet where the women have been genetically engineered to be perfect physical specimens of beauty, in order to harvest them as "a natural resource" to feed the slave-based economy.

 

I'll give you a minute to take that all in. You may need two.

 

Ok, back?

 

Well, as you can imagine, an enemy made up of this much unrelenting evil easily becomes a caricature, and that is pretty much what happens. Even the "sympathetic" friendly enemy dude, is just bad to the bone. He not only doesn't care about slavery, or how women are treated (he keeps "hypno-locked", that is, brainwashed) women slaves in his "stable", but worse even as the most sympathetic character on this side of the conflict, he simply doesn't question it at all. At one point he says that while the denizens of the planet they are invading will resist at first, it doesn't matter, because half of the next generation will be half Sirian (his planet) due to the wholesale rape of the female population by Sirian soldiers, and by three generations, they will simply have all been indoctrinated.

 

Worse our hero tries only once, and even then half-heartedly, to talk this through with him - although the two spend quite some time in each others company. 

 

Secondly, a major plot point turns on whether or not a woman presses charges against a man who assaults her. A man who a) admitted it to a police officer and b) is found alone with the beaten woman in his apartment. This totally did not work for me.

 

As mentioned this is some few hundred years into the future - so why does she have to decide to press charges or not? In most modern western jurisdictions even currently, this is not a choice the women has to make. She may decide if she will or won't testify, but if a man is found with bloody knuckles standing over a beaten and injured woman, in a locked apartment, she probably wouldn't have to. And prosecution would not wait on her decision either way. That this is even a question, let alone the hook of a major plot issue, just totally ruined any idea that this was an enlightened future earth with a global government, that had gotten past war and disease. Because this is peculiarly unenlightened in fact.

 

Finally the rapes. Plural. There are a lot of them. The enemy soldiers rape everyone in sight, and round up women to either send home, or drive around in vans to outposts to entertain their soldiers. In a POW camp, the prisoners are given "free pussy" every third day, and if they don't make use of it, the women are executed (in one brutal scene, whipped to death in front of a crowd of male prisoners).

 

Every single named female character in this book is raped, or dead, or both, by the end of it. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Oh, except one, Tascha: She's just a slave, who has to give up the baby she bore as a surrogate and wet nursed, and is expected to do so because "she's too trusting and bred to be a sex slave, if she was released she'd just hook up with some psychopath and be dead in a year". The HERO of the story, asked to have her released TO HIS CUSTODY to be a nanny for a child, where, even if that load of bollocks is true, she would be protected and cared for until she learnt to take care of herself. AND HE ACCEPTS THIS REASON WITHOUT ARGUMENT.  

 

*Sigh* I wanted to like this book a lot better than I did. I like space opera. I like military sci-fi (even if the sci in the sci-fi here was a little Star Trek TOS: Startanium, Starpasses, Space Marines...). I did like this book better than I should have, particularly the long section in the middle where our hero is fighting a ground war as a grunt.

 

But I just couldn't ever recommend anyone else read it.