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The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley. Book review

April 1, 2019

Book cover for The Light Brigade

In a world run by megacorporations, Dietz has not had an easy life, and after what was left of her family was destroyed in a catastrophic Mars separatist attack, she joins the military to get her revenge. The training of The Light Brigade is brutal, the drops no less traumatic, as the soldiers are taken apart and transported to be reassembled at the drop zone, where they have to hope they don’t end up embedded in a building or fatally scrambled.

But something strange and terrifying is happening to Dietz as she begins to experience a war and world which is not following a linear timeline. What will she do with this knowledge? Indeed, will she be able to do anything, or will she just remain another cog in the relentless war in which something is not right?

There is a dirty, visceral intensity to Kameron Hurley’s writing. A real sense of being there, getting sweaty and filthy. Of the need to grab your first aid box and stitch yourself up before you bleed out. The Light Brigade is a book of action, but also the mind. Prepare to have it stretched to screaming point. Which is why it is best to grab yourself a notepad or fire up a spreadsheet before you dive in, to keep on top of all the timelines, unless you have a photographic memory and a brain capable of mental gymnastics. But then again, this is Kameron Hurley, so what else can you expect?

The prose is terse, immediate and no nonsense. Yet at the same time it exudes a lyrical, driving rhythm which often reads like an epic poem rather than a military science fiction novel.

There is exposition, because this is a complex world where politics, massive corporation manoeuvring, propaganda and lots of technology needs to be explained. Despite all this, the tactics and the timeline shifts, you’re always in there with Dietz and care as much as she does at the loss of a comrade-in-arms, her horror at the realisation of what may be, and her sad backstory.

The shifting timelines, particularly when the action scenes are grafted in, are truly challenging, making the plot something which moves swiftly in a jig jag way, like a soldier trying to avoid a sniper. But as someone with a passion for jigsaw puzzles, I found the whole read very addictive.

The Light Brigade is a whole lot of writing techniques and plot twists rammed together into something which works brilliantly. At no time was there the sense of “isn’t this about time I got to the end of this book?”

The Light Brigade was courtesy of Angry Robot via NetGalley.

  1. Looks like we read a lot of the same books from Netgalley.

    I really enjoyed this one but yeah, it was a mind bender for sure. Great review.

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