I love SciFi. I love the endless possibilities it creates to build a world in which the author can bend the everyday rules in order to tell a story with different 'what if's. This book being slashfic SciFi, it means that the World Building is World Building Light. So the reader is not forced to slog through endless info dumps explaining all the finer points of the Doctrine ideology, for instance. If you're a deadly serious, beardy, bespectacled, socks-in-sandals kind of SciFi geek, this will probably cause snorts of derision and disdain. If you're me, this is World Building Just Right. Enough to set the parameters of the world, enough to explain the different set of rules we'll be playing with, and then let's get on with the story!
In very, very
broad strokes (forgive me, authors), the Doctrine is like Communism, the Alliance like the West and the planet Cirokko like Afghanistan (Do I hear the cheers of the hordes of Special Forces fans out there? Yes, I believe I do). Mike and Sergei are solid alpha males in the best of the Voinov tradition (I am less familiar with Etzweiler's work). The writing is crisp and concise, you can't really skim and not miss anything. The emotions build slowly and satisfyingly. There are a few surprises in the story that make it unpredictable, there are moments when the reader really fears it's not going to end well and there is enough conflict to satisfy my inner Drama Queen. And I couldn't possibly go to bed before I finished it.
4.5 stars, because it could have been (should have been) longer, dammit.