The Lazarus War: Legion | Jamie Sawyer | 2015 (eBook), 2016 (Pb) | Orbit | 475p | Review copy | Buy the book
Major Conrad Harris has become a legend. Harris is now known as Lazarus for the simple reason that he has come back from the dead more times than anyone else – literally. Harris is more than a soldier. He has become a figurehead for Sim Ops, a military force comprising men and women who fight in ‘skins’, bio-genetically enhanced bodies with strength far superior to that of their real bodies which rest in capsules, waiting for Extraction and the reintegration of mind and body. The Sims might be expensive but they’re also expendable and this is just as well. The majority of the missions are little more than suicidal, with each soldier having to endure the memory, terror (and pain) of repeated violent death. This is not a job for everyone but Conrad Harris does it better than anyone, leading his Lazarus Legion of two men and two women who fight to die, time after time.
The Lazarus War: Legion is set a few months after the shocking events of Artefact, the first novel in Jamie Sawyer’s fast and furious military SF trilogy. Artefact is an excellent book and it pays to have read it first but Legion, despite being the ‘middle book’, does a fine job of standing on its own two feet. Nothing in the review here should spoil your pleasure in either novel.
The war between the Alliance and the Directorate, which left much of Earth covered in a cloud and dusting of radioactive fallout, paused when Earth and its colonies in space discovered a far greater, alien threat of the monstrous Krell. But sometimes humans just cannot stop themselves and now tension between the two factions is worse than ever. Even the new knowledge of another alien presence in the Galaxy, the Shard, hasn’t helped. Shard artefacts are now being discovered and humans and the Krell compete fiercely for them, turning them into deadly objects that only Sims can dare to approach.
A new artefact has been discovered deep in Krell space and Legion presents the grand mission of the Colossus to discover its purpose. Aboard is the Lazarus Legion and other Sim Obs units and what they must endure is beyond all reckoning. Legion is a fast, fun and furious read. The pages accelerate through the fingers as we follow Harris and his team on one lethal expedition after another into a deeply mysterious artefact, positioned on the edge of a remarkable anomaly in space.
I love the way that Jamie Sawyer combines the thrill of the military action with the mystery of the artefact and the camaraderie of the team. I’m not a big reader of military science fiction on the whole as it can feel a bit two-dimensional to me but this series has a lot going for it. I really enjoy the character of Conrad Harris and here we learn more about him with flashbacks from his childhood in a war-torn city on a depressed Earth. For much of the latter part of this novel there’s a sense that he might be losing his sanity and I like how this is handled with just the right amount of confusion for the reader. His Legion and their interaction reminds me a little of the team in the Expanse novels, and that is no bad thing at all. The tension and atmosphere of their missions is so well done, thrillingly exciting.
The setting and context for the Lazarus War series are fabulous! Here we have mysterious artefacts that hint at strange alien species that we can only guess at, a galaxy of fascinating star systems marauded by revolting alien monsters, intriguing techologies, and star ships and space stations which have wonders outside their enormous windows. Striding through it all is Lazarus and his team as well a bunch of other characters, some good, some less good, and others which are not at all as they seem.
The ending of Legion sets us up perfectly for the concluding The Lazarus War: Origins, which is published in August. So little time! I do love a trilogy that doesn’t keep me waiting.