A Review of A Soldier’s Duty

A Soldier's Duty (Theirs Not to Reason Why, #1)A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A Soldier’s Duty is horseshit military science fiction. It’s not realistically military and the science fiction is insufficient, as I will explain.

I started experiencing pangs of nervousness almost immediately as I began reading this book. Something didn’t feel “right” about it. Something felt off. The protagonist, Ia, a precog, is just a little too powerful, a little too smug about it, a little too full of herself, especially at such a young age. And then after joining the military and seeing the first few hours, literally, after signing up, of I guess, boot camp, of getting her supplies, of her new drill sergeant, of the same, old tired stereotypes burned into everyone’s brains who’ve ever read anything about military anything boot camps, the dialogue, it’s juvenile. You almost wonder if a professional editor even looked it over. Nothing remotely original about it. Can nothing have changed in all of the centuries or millennium that have taken place between World War Two and then, between basic training back in the 1940s and thousands of years in the future? I know the military has its traditions, but when you break with traditions by putting women in combat roles in the future, by putting precogs in the military, probably as every military sci fi writer seems to love to do, by having both genders bunk together and shit, shave, and shower together, than military tradition is out the door in my book, so basic training can evolve too, so authors, please evolve with it when writing dialogue for your drill sergeants!

The thing that made this not very believable sci fi for me was the protagonist was essentially omnipotent, virtually omniscient, had practically godlike powers, had plans dating hundreds of years into the future, so what tensions or drama could possibly exist that would merit building a book around her, what could an author do to or with her that would make her audience fear for her life when they know she can do anything and she’ll triumph in the end? It defeats the purpose of even writing the book!

All of this made me wonder about the qualifications of the author. I thought maybe it was a first time author. Not so. Worse. Romance writer! A fucking romance writer attempting to write military sci fi! It’s unthinkable. It’s an insult to the genre. Imagine David Weber or David Drake trying to write a romance. It’s laughable. This woman’s bio has a picture of an obese woman who appears to have never been near a military base, in terms of fitness, and who offers no credentials at all. Most sci fi writers are scientists or military vets, most. She simply wants to entertain and inspire. Those are her “credentials” in her bio! It’s obscene. How does she expect to be taken seriously? It’s an affront to serious sci fi, especially military sci fi, writers. And, I should have read these, the plugs/blurbs from publications for the book on the inside cover come from publications such as Errant Dreams, Romance Junkies, Romance Reviews Today, and The Romance Reader. No Publishers Weekly and nothing by any sci fi reviewer or publication. I’m not surprised.

The shocker is, this book nearly has a 4 rating on Goodreads! But I’m about to discover and display an ugly misogynistic side to myself I didn’t know I had before now. In going over the ratings, I discovered that all but one of the five star ratings were by women. They raved. And all of the one and two star reviews were by men, who thought the book sucked. So, I would venture that many women fans of her work, I assume a number of whom are romance readers, read this and found it appealing and gave it five stars. Meanwhile, many stereotypical male military sci fi readers, such as myself, read this in the hopes of reading some good stuff, as the premise does sound interesting, found it to be simplistic horseshit, and gave it one and two star reviews and wrote it off as crap. Thus a battle between the sexes. Sad, but true. I’ve not really seen this before in similar books. Most female military sci fi readers are as well versed and accomplished in the genre as any man. So, I’m convinced the people giving this book such good reviews are the author’s romance fans. Otherwise, I think the book would have a much closer to 3.25 rating overall.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t get very far in this book, gave up, am going to be selling it to my used bookstore and am giving it one star. It is the work of an amateur out of her league and it shows. Definitely not recommended.

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