Thursday, April 20, 2017

Book Review + Author interview: Grunt Life (Task Force Ombra #1) by Weston Ochse

Grunt Life (Task Force Ombra #1) by Weston Ochse

Paperback, 432 pages

Published April 2014 by Solaris

I am a huge fan of military sci-fi, there is certainly nothing wrong with it being written by people who have never served and some of it is very good. Heinlein never was in the military and neither was Scalzi and Old Man's War is probably the best novel in the sub-genre this century. Certainly Grunt life is the most IMPORTANT military sci-fi novel of this century. Probably the most imporant since A certain Vietnam vet wrote a sci-fi novel by the name of the Forever War. There is a little something extra when you have novels like the Forever War written vets like Joe Handleman or the works of Weston Ochse.

Weston Ochse is a Bram Stoker award winning author who started his second military fiction trilogy with Grunt life. The first was a very good pulpy horror/ monster trilogy called Seal Team 666. In three books the Seal team team took on creatures and conspiracies that took them around the globe fighting monsters (I reviewed the first book last year). Of course one of the strengths Ochse who spent decades in the military or contracting over seas brings is a sense of reality many author couldn't.

Grunt life is the story of Benjamin Carter Mason who attempts suicide in the opening pages, he is prevented from doing that and given a choice. You can kill yourself now, or die for us and do something important. Mason is unsure but gives himself over to train with a group of mentally ill and suicidal soldiers that make up Task Force OMBRA.

Ombra you see has been preparing for the day when the invasion comes. They know some very alien force is already preparing the ground work. The non-humans are called the Cray, who are testing humans with acts of mind control that result in a epidemic of violent acts that appear random. A whole novel could have been built out of OMBRA's research into these events.

That however is not the point, we are very tightly focused on Mason. Written in first person this forces the narrative to stay with the main Character and away from generals, world leaders or a global view of the alien invasion. This is Grunt life after all. I want to be careful to remain spoiler free but the really smart thing Ochse brings to this military Sci-fi sub-genre is including victims of PTSD as twist on the classic Dirty Dozen set-up.

This is a military sci-fi novel that is much deeper than a surface action novel. A story about PTSD, that explores the issues related to the trauma that is all to common in warriors. The novel is also very much about what it means to be a grunt and of course the title suggests that. Without giving away the back half of the book it is not just the main characters who have an arc.

Seal Team 666 was a fun book, one I really enjoyed but damn Grunt Life is 1,000 times better. So yes read it.

Since I had met and talked to Weston a few times I asked him if I could interview him to make as a bonus video for my youtube channel/ this blog. We try not to spoil the book for the first 10 minutes, but after that we do mild spoilers. Here is the thing the last 20 minutes are real nitty gritty details about writing the book. I think all authors could learn from the discussion. So yeah here it is.

You can download the audio for a limited time here on my soundcloud page:

1 comment:

Steve Elmes said...

Dr. Heinlein was an Annapolis graduate (Class of '27) and serve naval duty until contracting Tuberculosis and receiving a Medical Discharge.