Book Review: Orphan Brigade by Henry V. O’Neil

Henry V. O’Neil keeps us guessing, and wanting more, in this second installment of the Sim Wars.

orphanFile Size: 618 KB
Print Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse (January 6, 2015)
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
Language: English
Kindle: $1.99
Print: $6.99

As mentioned in my review of O’Neil’s Glory Main (Book 1 of the Sim War), readers will be anxious to follow the continuing adventures of Jandar Mortas, newly commissioned Lieutenant in the Human Defense Forces, his sister Alyssa, a woman seeking justice and the downfall of her father, leader of the Emergency Senate, and that very same father, the aloof, hard-hearted, calculating and seemingly cold Olech Mortas.

Glory Main ended on a cliff-hanger: Jandar had solved his immediate problems (escaping from a SIM dominated world and eventually making it to a friendly military base, the titular Glory Main, having learned quite a bit about the fact that neither his formal training nor his insider knowledge of just about everything else can be trusted) and managing to deliver some highly important intelligence at the same time – information that will greatly complicate matters for his father and the War Against the Sims.

Like Glory Main, O’Neil just doesn’t thrust us into high-energy battle scenes; there’s quite a bit of political intrigue going on here as well, matters that were skillfully hinted at in Book 1. In Orphan Brigade, O’Neil begins to let us in on the bigger picture.

Earth and its colonies have been fighting an interstellar war for quite some time, a war being fought against an enigmatic enemy; the SIMs are indistinguishable from humans, though every effort at communication has failed; they seem to possess a “kill switch” that causes them to die of indeterminate causes following lengthy contact with humans; their technology is not as advanced as humanity’s, but their numbers are legion.

The Sims are, as best as can be determined, not a species of alien that resembles humanity, but rather a weapon constructed by powers unknown.

That unknown power is just one problem facing Jandar, Olech and Alyssa as well as the rest of humanity.

Of whom we’re privy to learn more throughout the course of the book; wanting to avoid spoilers (books with political intrigue make that difficult – especially when the intrigue is meaty and twisty) prevents me from even hinting at some of things going on “behind the scenes”; suffice to say that Alyssa discovers that her father is not the man she thought he was, and that Olech discovers that some of the things he’s done in the past out of dire necessity are now coming back to bite him in the fundament.

We learn more about Olech who turns out to be a lot more complicated than he appears in Book 1; non-spoilery fact: he was a teenaged soldier (impressed out of necessity) and found glory, purpose and political clout through survival and victory.

And we definitely learn more about Alyssa, a woman who harbors deep resentment for her father, his politics and his treatment of family members, and a woman who is smart and capable enough to use her father’s offices and authority as she works on bringing him down. She’s every bit as capable as Jandar, though she’s chosen different tools.

And what about Jandar? Newly released from confinement on Glory Main (his last adventure having placed him in limbo with a possible death sentence over his head), Jandar refuses an easy ambassadorial assignment to continue his military career and is assigned to the Orphan Brigade.

The Orphan Brigade is a storied unit – an independent fast reaction force of light infantry, designed to insert into hotspots and hold the ground until relieved by heavier units (very much resembling paratroops); unfortunately for Jandar, the unit is being misused for political reasons.

Jandar, assigned as a new platoon leader (and cautioned to follow the lead of his Master Sergeant) joins the Orphans just before they’re sent off planet to act as the spear point in a BIG PUSH. Under strength (more political machinations), the Orphans soon find themselves the victims of poor planning and the miscalculations of higher authority.

The battle itself once again shows us O’Neil’s deft hand at conveying the confusion and anarchy of warfare, while also introducing some nifty military tech and giving us a really good sense of what duty and honor mean in the face of personal annihilation.

O’Neil is quickly building an intriguing and engaging series; if anything, Orphan Brigade is even stronger than Glory Main and once again leaves you wanting more.

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1 Comment

  1. I can’t thank you enough for this tremendous review. I’m so pleased that someone with your talents and experience in this field enjoyed Glory Main and Orphan Brigade. The third book in the series, Dire Steps, is due for release in August and I will make sure you get an ARC. Thanks again.

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