Bruno Goncalves is, simply put, a find. Comparisons to Heinlein's Starship Troopers are justified. The only thing is, Goncalves may actually be better - once the little editing issues are sorted out.
Toni Miura is a farm boy who gets tired of his family telling him how to live, and making decisions about his future. So he joins the army. If you've ever been in the army, I won't need to tell you to chuckle at this point.
Toni is a great protagonist - gifted, but also flawed. He has good instincts and good aptitude, but he's not prescient and he makes mistakes. His squad mates are sketched more sparingly, but still well drawn, with the possible exception of Ian Templeton whose motives are unexplained, at least in this first book.
Partially genetically adapted human colonists on the super-earth planet Capicua have had no contact with Earth or anyone else for centuries. Now an armed expeditionary force arrives to reclaim Earth's 'territory'. The shocked colonists fight back. Toni and the other recruits picked a bad time to join the army. They're not even half-trained when Bad Things begin to happen, but they have to do the best they can with what they've got.
Goncalves is a tough writer. Characters get hurt, and they get killed. Just as in war, there are no favourites and no one has a charmed life. The reader really does not know who will die next, or how.
The book starts with a prologue describing combat action which takes place twenty years earlier. I suspect the importance of this will become clearer in Goncalves' sequel (see the Interview below!).
Capicua's boot training, and selection of Suit driver candidates, is outstanding. It reflects the standard military method, but it is expertly applied in the SF setting of Capicua. After two hundred years of peace, the armed forces are not exactly in a high state of readiness to repel invaders; nevertheless the actions of the invaders push the Capicuans into armed conflict.
The invaders from the Earth Federation are also very well drawn: real characters, with different cultural values and customs from the Capicuans. One feels a connection with the invaders as well as with the hard-pressed defenders. This is particularly so in the case of Kaiser, but also with the ruthless Lippard.
What is truly impressive is the hard SF nature of this book. Goncalves has taken the trouble, and done the research, to create an unusually real-world feel in his creation.
Fans of hard military Science Fiction, salute your new commander!
(review of free book)