Issue In Doubt
Issue in Doubt can be considered a spiritual sequel to the Starfist books, written by the same author. As a result, it shares most of the strengths and weaknesses of them.
Who and What
Well, the story is boilerplate alien invasion of a colony world and military response. The characters are in three categories. The alien hordes, the MARINES who do heroic MARINE things, and the inept weasels in politics or branches that aren’t MARINES.
I’m already used to this from Starfist. I was expecting this. That doesn’t make it any better, but it does make it less surprising.
DEEP HISTORY OF TEM
I counted several infodumps that fit this category exactly-a description of unit force structure that turned out to be utterly irrelevant, and another that was just barely on task.
The category doesn’t exactly gel here. Being a science fiction story and a “Soft” one at that (I’ll just say the spaceship ‘physics’ described are more Star Wars than Kerbal Space Program) means the “plausibility” part isn’t there the way it is for a more grounded technothriller.
But if I had to list one obvious zombie sorceress contrivance, it’s the way every non-MARINE branch is obviously and ridiculously set up to fail. It gets annoying and seems counterproductive. The MARINES look worse instead of better if they’re compared to such contrived losers.
If I had to describe the action in two words, it’d be “good enough”. It’s not spectacular or even above-average, but it’s not dull or bad. The anachronistic “Vietnam with space suits” technology and the MARINE FIGHTING INFANTRY bias drags it down a little, but it remains a readable cheap thriller.
The Only Score That Really Matters
Compared to the Starfist books I’ve read, this is firmly in the middle. It inherits the background snarky goofiness of the setting, but falls into the “decent cheap thriller” category, rather than reaching the over-the-top crazy high or just bad lows of some other Starfist books.