Bitter Angels, by C.L. Anderson
Posted August 29, 2011on:
Bitter Angels by C.L. Anderson
Published in 2009
Where I got it: Purchased New
why I read it: met the author at a bookstore book signing
Ever heard the phrase “it’s not that you don’t like insert-subgenre-here, it’s that you just haven’t read the right one”? I’ve read a few military SF novels over the years, and they’ve never done much for me, so I figured I just didn’t care for military SF.
Turns out I just hadn’t read the one that was right for me.
Bitter Angels may fit most neatly into the subgenre of military scifi, but it’s a hard scifi action political thriller murder mystery, and it stars a kick ass female protagonist.
It’s been over 20 years since Terese Drajeske retired from the Guardians a damaged woman. She retired after her last mission, after she was captured, tortured, had her bio-companion ripped from her head and was left for dead. Over 20 years since she left her mentor, Bianca Fayette, left all that pain behind. But now Bianca is dead, and the Guardians are asking Terese to return to active duty, to leave her husband, her children, everything that’s kept her sane all these years, to investigate Bianca’s death.
Anderson throws a lot at the reader in the first hundred pages of Bitter Angels. A lot of set up, a lot of characters, a lot of politics and star system socio-economic culture. Don’t get me wrong, I love a quick read, but this is one that would only have benefited from being 200 pages longer. We get a lovely intro with Terese and her family, and her heartwrenching emotions when she has to tell her husband she’s voluntarily returning to active duty. We get some character point of views from the Erasmus system where Bianca was killed. There’s a lot going on, and a lot to follow.
Sounds like the beginning of a typical military scifi thriller, right? something I probably wouldn’t like, right? I think a reason I’ve never much gotten into military SF is because I’m not close with anyone who is in the military. When a book starts talking about weapons or helicopters or military ranks, I’m immediately lost because I simply can’t relate. Anderson is certainly knowledgeable enough to write a military scifi novel, but the technobabble is kindly skipped over. And Terese and her compatriots aren’t exactly soldiers, they are Peacekeepers. And not Peacekeepers in the Farscape sense, Peacekeepers as in that’s what they do, they promote peace by not killing people. The Peacekeepers carry guns, but they are not allowed to kill. The idea is that killing begets more killing, and that saving lives begets more saving lives. What kind of a military SF book doesn’t have any killing in it? If they aren’t allowed to kill people, what’s in the guns? You’ll just have to read the book for yourself to find out, and it’s pretty damn ingenius.
Even more not-military is that Terese is worried sick about her husband. How will her return to active duty change their relationship? They both know this could destroy their relationship. The only thing more kick ass than a kick-ass female protagonist is a kick ass female protagonist who is in love with her own spouse.
When Terese and her team reach the Erasmus system, an out of the way group of planets run by the despotic Erasmus family, they quickly learn the situation is not at all what they’d been expecting. This is where Bitter Angels goes all thriller, with suspected betrayals at every corner, blackmail, debt slavery, and unexpected twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the last chapter.
Better than the sum of it’s parts, Bitter Angels does deliver. There was some foreshadowing at the beginning that didn’t pan out, and some sketchy plot devices that ended up not going anywhere, but it offered an intriguing, interesting and powerful storyline, and proved that I can enjoy military SF.
And another thing, I know I bitch about long drawn out series with years and years between volumes, and all that. Bitter Angels would make the perfect first book in a series. This is world I sincerely hope C.L. Anderson returns too.