Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Standing Together by MJ Dougherty

Standing TogetherStanding Together is the sequel to Standing Alone. The War for British Independence from the European Federation rages on. The Euros still occupy the southern half of England but the valiant fighting of the Brits has convinced the Americans to join their cause. But are the British dumping their Euro overlords only to be annexed by the US? The Nordic League offers Lady Elizabeth Sinclaire another option: League Protectorate. Meanwhile, "Shotgun" Mike Halsey runs a special operations unit answerable only to Sinclaire. And when she can drink enough whisky (or even whiskey) to drown out her guilt, she'll send him out on another suicide mission because she has no other choice.

Once again, Dougherty provides a story that's heavy on the action—even more than the first book—and bound to please military sci-fi fans. Heck, even if you like contemporary military stories or you're a World War II buff, you'll like this story. Even though meks—that tank with arms and legs on the book's cover—figure prominently in most of the battles, the tech talk is not far enough out there to alienate these audiences. There's still enough dogfights, naval battles, and infantry action to go around. Dougherty, a military history buff and defense analyst, knows his stuff. I would not be surprised if he ran war games in his basement just to validate the battles that appear in the book.

There isn't any new character development for Halsley or Sinclaire. They're the same blokes they were in the first book. Some minor characters who survived the first book make appearances and receive some more time in the spotlight. The good guys fight valiantly; the bad guys twirl their mustaches. There's little time for introspection or reflection. People are dying after all. One exception is an interesting exchange between Halsley and the Napoleonic General Lavelle during a ceasefire that stirs the sub-plot regarding Halsley's past. Dougherty also offers glimpses into the political machinations of the day; stuff that makes Halliburton's foray in Iraq seem like a picnic. But these serve more as hints of what's to come in future installments of the series.

One unfortunate move that was made was the inclusion of a Forward and Introduction. While the Forward contained some interesting information about military philosophy, I think it could've been left out or saved for an "Afterward". It delays the reader from getting into the action, which starts in the Prologue. The Introduction all but summarizes the events that took place in Standing Alone. While adding another delay for readers, it might also discourage them from picking up a copy of that book, which would be a shame.

Yes, my skepticism regarding an ascendent European Federation still stands, but it was easy enough to set aside and just enjoy Standing Together for what it is: good military fiction.

Standing Together is available from Amazon.

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