Gust Front by John Ringo is the second in The Posleen War series. It is preceded by A Hymn before Battle and followed by When the Devil Dances and Hell’s Faire. Although part of a series, Gust Front stands alone as a novel very well.
Ringo has already established a well-deserved reputation as one of the best of the new breed of military science-fiction writers and with Gust Front the reputation is reinforced.
The alien Posleen have been defeated on Barwhon and Diess by the heroic efforts of Michael “Mighty Mite” O’Neal and his Armored Combat Suit (ACS) unit. Now Mike has recovered from wounds and is put in charge training for the ACS battalions, because the Posleen, who look at humans as “food that sting”, are headed to Earth.
The novel starts off a bit slow, dealing with the details of Mike’s incompetent superiors and how the Galatics are subverting the war effort so that the surviving humans might become tame janissary soldiers for the authoritarian Galactic Federation. But Mike and his ACS soldiers have other plans.
The book really takes off when the Posleen arrive and invade Northern Virginia. Ringo is a United States army veteran and his writing really shines when he deals with the details and nitty-gritty of military operations. His soldier characters ring true, some are heroic, and some are cowards, but all are very human. The writing here is so vivid you can almost feel the hypersonic missile fly and the anti-matter explode. The battles for Richmond and Fredericksburg and the stand on the Washington Mall are by far and away the best parts of the book.
Throughout the book, Ringo is paying some tribute to Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. The Armored Combat suits are clearly modeled on Heinlein’s fighting suits and self-consciously O’Neal’s unit is called the 555th Mobile Infantry Battalion. Just as with Heinlein, Ringo is paying tribute to the military, particularly the American military and the virtues of honor, sacrifice and bravery. In Ringo’s universe the good guys are really good and the bad guys are pure evil. The good guys either win or go down fighting. Some people will find the detailed level of description too much and the military trivia a bit much, too. But others will be fascinated. If the reader is looking for a wacking good military action yarn with heroic heroes versus big, bad ugly aliens than Gust Front is for you.