Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Review: Tin Men By Christopher Golden

Tin Men by Christopher Golden

Hardcover, 368 pages

Published June 2015 by Ballantine Books

It is amazing that I have never read a A Chris Golden novel before. I am sure we have met in passing at a World Horror or World Fantasy somewhere, and I listen to his "Three Guys With a Beard" Podcast (co-hosted by Jonathan Maberry and James A Moore Check it out)on a regular basis. I know I have read short stories and anthologies edited by the man. But this is my choice for first Golden novel. Last summer I saw this book in the new releases at Mysterious Galaxy and was sold by the concept right away.

As a fan of military science fiction in general this one caught my interest a paragraph into the dust jacket. It is not a space opera but a near future tale set against the back drop of our society collapsing. It certainly was released with plenty of well deserved praise, I was afraid that the bar was impossibly high. One blurb compares it to a cross between American Sniper and Avatar, another a mix of Terminator and Saving Private Ryan. Both comparisons are accurate if that is something you need to sell you on a book.

Tin Men is set in a near future when the global infrastructure is falling apart. The U.S. Military is filling the void trying to end conflicts around the globe. At least that is their argument. It is impossible to imagine a future where Americans would support the use of their blood and treasure to be cops of the world. But what if they could put soldiers in country around the world but not actually risk their lives. Enter the Tin men program where U.S. Soldiers navigate robotic bodies by satellite link.

What could do wrong? How about a EMP pulse that sends society back to the dark ages. A G20 summit with world leaders in the middle of chaos and the Tin men have a mission to survive. It is sci-fi sure but like the best novels in the genre it is updating the war novel for the drone age.

The best moments of this novel come from the pacing and non-stop action which make the book a page turner. The plot itself could carry two novels weather it was the Tin Men saving the world leaders or getting back to the base where their bodies are on ice. The majority of characters are fully realized and well composed. From The tin men like Kate Wade and Danny Kelso to President Matheson and Syrian Ambassador's daughter Alexa. Indeed the female characters were the strongest and most compelling characters. Each death and moment of suspense worked for me on a deep level and kept me turning pages.

This concept sounded to me like something the cyberpunks most notably John Shirley or Bruce Stirling might have tackled. It is an important one when you have a generation of soldiers growing up on video games and simulated violence. There are lots of important themes going on, ranging from U.S. intervention, to technology and warfare.

There were weaknesses for the book, that might not effect all readers but really hurt the book for me personally. Golden is a talented story teller and those aspects of the novel work on a five out of five star level. It was some of the world building that were lacking for me. Not one mention of who built the Tin Men or what corporations were contracted to build them? No mention of how the corporations drove the global agenda. This was something I think the Cyberpunk authors would not have missed.

The bad guys in this book are Anarchists, and they are hardly given more motivation than cobra was in GI Joe Cartoons. There was one fully realized character who worked with the anarchists and his personal agenda was well defined. There were battles with entire squad of anarchist snipers and to me their existence was somewhat glossed over. It could be my leftist background having worked with anarchists and studied the Spanish civil War I know better than to think of people under that title as just hell bent on chaos. It is kinda like calling Bernie Sanders and his supporters commies. Corporate agenda and ties to Occupy or anti-globalization movement.

Over all I enjoyed Tin Men alot I just think the future it takes place in could have been more fleshed out. I probably wouldn't be so nitpicky if I didn't think the novel was so well executed overall. One thing is for sure I will read more Christopher Golden and I can't say aything nicer about it. I want to read more about this world and I hope those themes get explained deeper in sequels. Certainly I could see a novel set in this universe where the anarchists are heroes. Call me crazy.

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