Review: Virtues of War by Bennett R. Coles (Titan Books, 2015)
Action packed military SF novel that is smart, well paced, and a blast to read. Coles’ characters are fascinating flawed heroes who are balancing their personal lives and ambitions with their duties as serving officers. Given the plentiful action, it is surprisingly insightful and joins the ranks of great military SF like Haldeman’s Forever War and Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.
Let’s face it, when it comes to literature I am more a fantasy fan than SF. I might have studied SF, but my first love will always be fantasy. So it came as something of a surprise how much I enjoyed this book. Bennett R. Coles’ Virtues of War is one of those smart SF military fiction novels that dares to be read in two completely different ways. On the one hand you could read it as a straight-up, gung ho, military SF action story and it doesn’t disappoint. There are space battles, planet-side encounters, basically action aplenty. Or, you could read it as a critique of expansionist military regimes, that still has sympathy and empathy for the men and women who serve in the armed forces. I suppose, what I am trying to get at is that Coles breathes life into the old adage about ‘loving the soldier and hating the war’. But, as with all attempts to illustrate concepts and bring them to life, it is more complicated than that, and Virtues is all the better for it.