Book Review: Order of the Centurion

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Hey Space Cadets, first I want to let you know about the SFF Kindle Unlimited Promotion!  I have Breach Team listed there as well as my scify humor story Vacuums Suck Hard! Adventures of the USS BIG STICK.  You should take a look as there are lots of good books for you to check out.  If you have been visiting my blog for any length of time you know this is one of my preferred advertising platforms.

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Now – on to the next installment in my series of Galaxy’s Edge book reviews. This time I’m reviewing the Order of the Centurion Series, of which I have a forthcoming novel. I’ve been super busy finishing some real-life things, dealing with health insurance and the like, but I still made time to read (mostly while on hold), so here is my next book review! Speaking of book reviews, please remember to rate anything you’ve read on Amazon and/or GoodReads when you get a chance! We poor author’s need your assistance. 😊 Anyway, I want to share what I just finished with you! So, let’s get to it!

 

Title: Order of the Centurion

Author:  Jason Anspach and Nick Cole

Narrator: Mark Boyett

eBook Price:  USD 4.99

Audiobook Price: USD 29.95 or 1 Audible Credit

Obtained:  I bought this novel from Amazon in the audio and ebook format.

Pages:  314

Cover for Order of the Centurian

Rating:  5/5 Grenades

5 Grenade

Summary:

First, let me say that none of what I’ll say in this section couldn’t be found on the back copy of the novel. Heck, I cribbed this summary from the back, and then I added my own twist! And not even much of one, since most of the books I read have kick butt descriptions (aka blurbs). If the blurb doesn’t catch my eye, then I tend to skip the book unless a friend recommends it. Generally speaking, my goal is to provide a spoiler-free review, so here goes nothing!

 

The Order of the Centurion is the highest award that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in, or with, the Legion. When such an individual displays exceptional valor in action against an enemy force, and uncommon loyalty and devotion to the Legion and its legionnaires, refusing to abandon post, mission, or brothers, even unto death, the Legion dutifully recognizes such courage with this award.

 

Tired of sitting out the war on Psydon in a mobile office hab, Legion Lieutenant Washam agrees to undertake a covert and unsanctioned mission with a band of Republic Recon Marines. Inserted deep behind enemy lines, the strike force uncovers a surprise key to ending a bitter war. Now they must navigate a hostile jungle teeming with murderous alien rebels, pushing themselves to the limits of their abilities, to get this vital intel to Legion Command – if they can survive that long.

 

THE ORDER OF THE CENTURION is the first novel in an all-new series of stand-alone military science fiction thrillers set in the GALAXY’S EDGE universe, ranging from the Savage Wars to the arrival of the Black Fleet. Each book features the legendary heroes of the Legion who forgot nothing in their earning of the Legion’s highest honor.

 

If you like epic space opera, with a side of military science fiction, you should read this series.  Plenty of explosions, with authentically gritty combat. If this sounds like your flavor of badassery, then you’ve come to the right place! This novel is a brilliant continuation of the Galaxy’s Edge Universe, where they fix everything George Lucas broke in this Star-Wars-Not-Star-Wars adventure. I wish I could give you an easy comparison, “if you enjoyed Book X, buy this book,” but I really feel like Nick and Jason broke new ground here. They’ve revived that sense of newness and fun that we loved as children, that brought most of us to the science fiction genre! There are new series popping up that follow this vibe, I’ve heard of them… but until I read them, I can’t recommend them. So, until then, I will stick with the belief that there are other military sci-fi books out there, but none quite like this!

 

 

Characters: 

In this novel, we again followed a small group of characters, which I find is how I like this universe. We meet a young Lieutenant Washam, Major D’lay Berlin, Sergeant Shotton, Specialist Alistair and Subs. All of the characters were a lot of fun to spend time with again and made me want the book to never end (hint, hint)!

 

Lieutenant Washam (Wash): He’s a rich kid from a prominent family on Spilursa who becomes one of the Legion’s first ‘point (appointed) officers. He was genuinely dedicated to the ideals of the Republic, the House of Reason and the Legion. Unlike his fellow points, he earned his commission the hard way and his peers hated him for it. The rest of the Legion? They hated him too, never giving him a chance. Instead, they relegate him to some backwater supply depot doing work normally reserved for lowly corporals. When the opportunity comes to go on a mission led by Major Berlin, seeking to hunt down the guns terrorizing the Republic forces on Psydon, he reluctantly rises to the situation. He becomes the living embodiment of the Legion mantra, KTF. He kills them first, showing the Legion and the Dobies that he was a force to be reckoned with. He felt real and not one of those stereotypical military killers. He was badass, a consummate professional and genuinely good officer for his troops. He’s the kind of guy you’d want on your side in a firefight, despite having essentially bribed his way into the Legion. He was my favorite character in this novel, I enjoyed following him! Overall, I really liked him and felt like there was so much more to come from him! I can’t wait to see where his arc concludes in Retribution!

 

Major D’lay Berlin: He’s a rich kid from a prominent family on Spilursa who becomes one of the Legion’s first ‘point officers. He was genuinely dedicated to the ideals of the Republic and the House of Reason, though he was an unashamedly spoiled rotten brat. He takes a lot for granted, learning the true meaning of service… and he does it the hard way. In the end, he proves his mettle under fire during operations on Psydon. I both hated and loved this character throughout the course of the novel, but in the end, he won me over.

 

Sergeant Major Boyd (Subs): He’s a Dark Ops Legionnaire who’s on temporary duty at Republic Army Firebase Hitchcock. He was severely wounded on his last Dark Ops mission and was stuck out in the boonies to ride out the last of his service time before he could retire. He was a motivated, gung-ho type of leej who knew how to get things done and passed those skills on to the Repub Army soldiers he was stationed with. When a rogue mission into the Psydon jungle runs into trouble, Subs rushes off towards the sounds of the guns to help his fellow legionnaires. I really loved this character and wanted more from him. He was the sort of operator who had plenty of stories left to his name, stories that deserve to be told.

 

Specialist Alistair: He’s a Repub Army “basic” who’s the radio operator for Republic Army Firebase Hitchcock. He’s befriended Dark Ops Legionnaire Sergeant Major Boyd (Subs), whom he sees as his mentor. When Subs makes his way into the woods for an impromptu rescue operation, Alistair heeds the call of duty and proves his worth. I really liked this character and wanted to see what happened to him after the events that take place in The Order of the Centurion.  

 

Sergeant Shotton: He’s a Repub marine sergeant, who was in charge of the marine detachment that went on the patrol with Major Berlin and Lieutenant Washam. He was a grizzled old NCO, but no-nonsense kind of guy every rookie wants on their side in a firefight. He was a consummate warfighter, one who shows everyone that the Legion isn’t the only bubbas who can KTF! I really enjoyed this character and wouldn’t mind seeing more from him. Seriously, I would love to know what happened to him after the SLIC pulled him out of the jungles!

 

Doros (aka Dobies): These are a doglike race of humanoids that look similar to an Earthlike Doberman, hence their nickname of dobie. They were a fierce species with a pack mentality and were capable warriors. They are from the planet Psydon and were ultimately forced into the fold of the Republic by the Legion during a period of fierce struggle. These were the enemies from Tin Man and the Order of the Centurion. I love these aliens and wanted more from them. I bet they would be fun aliens to explore from their own perspective. (Hint, hint, hint.)

 

Cover of Retribution - Galaxy's EdgeOverall, it was fun to meet one of the important characters from the main series. I liked learning Wash’s backstory and how he achieved the peaks he climbed. I give these characters 5 out of 5 Grenades and can’t wait to see where the author takes Wash in the last Galaxy’s Edge novel, Retribution.

 

 

Plot: 

The premise for this universe was to take the kind of Star Wars stories we used to love, strip out all of the political messaging, and just tell fun tales. Escapism and enjoyment, under the banner of intergalactic science fiction. This book launches a new series set in the Galaxy’s Edge Universe, telling the stories of legionnaires who won the Order of the Centurion. It’s the highest award for valor that can be earned by a leej and his highly coveted. This series, like the rest of the main novels, fit squarely within the scope of the military fiction that I love to read. I loved that this was an action-packed novel with a defined plot. It was easy to follow, and it never really felt like the story lagged behind or became dull. There was never a point in the novel where I couldn’t follow what was going on, so in this aspect of the story, it was a hit! We get to see a war fought by the Legion’s first point officers against the Doros, a humanoid doglike race nicknamed the Dobies. The plot was darkly fun, so much so that I had to sit on this for a few days before I could write this review. Seriously, the ending was just that emotional. It was a good set-up and well-executed premise that held my interest from the first sentence. They built on what came before this novel, allowing the universe to grow and expanded, hooking me on their special brand of leej crack! The plot was compelling, emotional and hit ya in the feels. I really loved the premise, but in full disclosure, I do have a novel written later in this series. I won’t be reviewing a novel I wrote, but that was probably a given. Back to the plot of this novel, I enjoyed how the execution. It was especially fun to get some of the backstory of a major character from the main series. In this book Jason and Nick did it again, the pacing was excellent and there was never a slow moment. There was never a point where the plot was confusing, or that I couldn’t figure out what was going on. A map of the terrain would definitely help, but I could still picture things in my head. I couldn’t ask for anything more; a compelling premise, perfect execution, and incredible pacing! I again give Nick Cole and Jason Anspach 5 out of 5 Grenades!

 

 

World Building:

This is one of the many spin-off novels in the Galaxy’s Edge Series. There were nine books in the main series with about the same number of novels in the other series set in this universe. After all of those books, I still absolutely loved it. Each novel keeps getting better, and I’m more hooked than ever. Can I say that enough? Okay, back to the nitty-gritty of the review. This novel had a very fleshed out world that was consistent, made sense and sucked you in. Some of the details that seemed inconsequential in the first eight novels from the main storyline are clarified and proven to be critically important. This novel served to add even more depth to the world at the edge of the galaxy. This novel built onto the bedrock that Tin Man created about the conflict on Psydon and the brave men and women who fought there for The Republic. I could picture every setting described, easily envisioning myself fighting the Dobies in the Psydon jungles. They described the world with plenty of details, and there wasn’t a scene where I couldn’t imagine what Anspach and Cole described. By choosing to have the main character fighting in his fatigues, these two authors were able to up their game by adding more sensory input to the mix; sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. There was no climate controlled leej armor to hide behind, just the legionnaire and his relentless foe. They didn’t reinvent the wheel and built on the existing tropes of science fiction. They just made it sexier! Overall, the world building was well done, and I was sold on the way it happened. It felt believable, and the characters fit within the universe Nick Cole, and Jason Anspach created. Like most of the stories I read, this one didn’t take itself too seriously, which allowed you to focus on the fun which is why I read in the first place. I give the world building 5 out of 5 Grenades.

 

 

Description: 

I have to give it to the authors, this novel was chock-full of visualization, and you could definitely imagine yourself in this world. They described things across the sensory spectrum; sights, sounds, smells and even how the world felt. This is extremely important when you’re writing and/or reading military science fiction. Combat can’t just be seen, it must be experienced and Anspach and Cole brought that to you. I could almost smell the burnt ozone from the blaster fire and feel the tension in the air from the marines who went on patrol with Major Berlin and Lieutenant Washam. This is how it’s done, and I hope to get that good someday. While I could visualize all of the characters, I would still love it if the authors shared artists renderings for them. It’s beyond time that this universe gets its own bestiary for the various alien races! I feel like an addict saying that, but meh… I like it when we have the visuals to go along with my novels. While the authors did a great job at description, they didn’t describe every blade of grass. Instead, they gave you the building blocks you needed to see it for yourself. One huge plus for me was Nick Cole and Jason Anspach’s descriptive use of language. This book didn’t have a single place where I couldn’t picture the scenery and the equipment, which added to the world that felt tangible and I enjoyed it. The author’s description of their universe was evocative, and enough to please rookies and uber fans alike! This is similar to what I said in the previous books, but their descriptive game has been superb throughout the series, and I can’t think of a place I’d like to improve it.

In summary, I didn’t find any issues with the descriptions and was impressed by the literary skills of the authors. The action was gripping, and the story was fun. If you want the action, the adventure, and the PEW PEW, then this is the book for you!  Nick Cole and Jason Anspach brought it, they were definitely their A game.  I give them 5 out of 5 grenades in this category, more if I could!

 

Narration:

After becoming a fan of audiobooks, I’ve listened to over a hundred hours of stories read to me by awesome narrators like RC Bray, Luke Daniels, Mark Boyett, and Veronica Giguere. I’m confident in what I enjoy and what I dislike. I know that I hate accents that seem too cheesy and despise narrators that sound like robots. With those pesky caveats, I will review the narration quality of this novel. The audiobook was well done, and the accents were consistent. I liked what Mark Boyett did with this novel, his audiobooks are always quality productions. I’ve listened to several books by this narrator, and I’ll keep buying more because he’s just that good. I felt like he was the perfect fit to tell Wash’s story. He also did an outstanding job with the secondary characters, he had me crying for the tragedy that was the life of Sergeant Major Boyd. I loved how he portrayed Major Berlin, though it left me conflicted. I wasn’t sure whether to love him or hate him. I listened to this novel exclusively and only referenced the e-book while writing this review. I don’t feel like there is any part of the story I didn’t understand, which can sometimes happen when listening rather than reading a novel. His performance didn’t feel robotic like a machine was reading the novel to me. You’ll often see that from me because it’ll drag me out of a book so fast that I can’t listen to it anymore. With Mark Boyett, it felt like I was listening to one of those old-time radio dramas. He did a great job with the various characterizations, and his voices were consistent. Overall, I give Boyett 5 out of 5 grenades for his performance.

 

 

Book Cover:

Before I introduce this section of the review, this is my obligatory reminder that I am indeed colorblind. Obviously, I don’t see things the way you normies do… I’m just cool like that! Okay, back to your regularly scheduled cover commentary. This was an awesome cover, I seriously loved it. The choice of the font was spot on, somehow managing to be both badass and bureaucratic. I like that the series name was written in a separate color so that it stood out. It looks brown to me, though my wife swears that it is red. Staying on the fonts, they also used the same font for their offer names that have been on all of their works. A perfect way to brand their novels, telling potential readers that this is a rip-roaring good time. Now, onto the actual cover image. I liked seeing the legionnaire on the cover, I believe that it is Subs, the Dark Ops legionnaire from the novel. I wished they had instead used an image of Lieutenant Washam, but after seeing the other covers in this series I get why they made that choice. I also liked the effect they layered over the image, making it seem like a glitching computer screen. Truly, this is cover art as it should be designed. Overall, I give the cover illustrators and designers 5 out of 5 grenades for their performance.

 

 

Overall:

First, I’ll start by saying that I really loved the concept that is the Order of the Centurion Series. The concept behind this is basically a “day in the life” style of prose where they explore the stories of the individual legionnaires. And not just any leejes, but the best of the best. We get to read the stories of the bravest the Legion and the Republic has to offer. Further, the set up will have many guest authors telling stories of these men and women in this epic universe. Again, for transparency, I do have a novel coming out in this series. I don’t know when the book will launch, but The Reservist will be a part of this series. Okay, enough about that… let’s move past the series and talk about this specific book.

 

Despite the serious nature of my review, all of the novels in this universe harkened back to what I loved about the first book Legionnaire. The combat was gritty and visceral, sucking you in through the pages and into another world. So about that world I was sucked into… the vibe of this story is amazing. I loved every nail-biting second of this novel! Obviously, we knew that Wash would live, but everyone else was fair game! It meant that we never lost the tense feeling. There were no deep messages, or political themes, just good clean fun. Like the previous novels, this story was compelling and made me want to know more. This book left me wanting novels about Subs and Alistair. I wanted to know what happened to the marine sappers, basically, I wanted to know more about all of the secondary characters.

 

Like the previous novels in this universe, the first thing that caught my eye was the fantastic cover. Seriously, they’re all amazingly compelling. If you want to learn more about them, the Galaxy’s Edge mailing list will show you how the covers evolved to their final version. You’ll also get a free short story, Tin Man! The Galaxy’s Edge covers reminded me of the iconic science fiction covers I loved as a kid, or the movie posters from the action adventures I watched when I was supposed to be studying. The image of a legionnaire fading out like some sort of glitch in the matrix gave this cover a videogame vibe. The fonts worked, and while I would’ve preferred an image of Wash, after seeing the other covers in this series I understand why this artistic choice was made. Seriously, the cover is amazing and when I finally have a dedicated office or man cave, I’m decorating it with ALL of these covers! Are you reading this, Wife? My man cave, my decorating choices! I should be okay, right? Right?

 

One of the things I really enjoyed about this novel was that it leaned into the military side of the Galaxy’s Edge Universe. This series has been a bit bipolar at times, bouncing between the space opera and military science fiction subgenres. I love them both and I really shouldn’t pick a favorite, but in this love triad my heart favors the military sci-fi! It was fun to revisit that, to read a gripping tale of action and adventure and lose myself for a few hours while I listen to Mark Boyett read to me. While they did spend a significant amount of time making the world of Psydon come alive, they never took their foot off the gas were let up on the action. The authors balanced that with enough lulls in the fighting that we could let out the collective breath we were holding. This was seriously a master class in proper pacing!

 

Speaking of master classes, this novel also did an excellent job at characterization. They managed to create compelling three-dimensional characters without sacrificing the action. There was no unneeded navel-gazing, but Jason and Nick still managed to build compelling characters we wanted to know more about. Seriously, there’s wasn’t a single secondary character that I didn’t want to read a whole novel about. Heck, I would even love to read a story written from the dubies point of view! Yes, I’m hinting strongly here… hoping the authors read this and give us more from Subs, Alistair and the marines from Psydon! I’m looking at you Jason!!

 

Book Cover Mission for the Dead - Galaxy's EdgeOne of the aspects of this novel that I loved the most was learning the backstory of Lieutenant Washam, someone who was an interesting tertiary character in the main series. After reading Message for the Dead, it became clear that he was going to become more important, so I paused before reading Retribution. I had to know more about him before the final gut punch that I expect the last novel in the series to be. I expected his backstory to be interesting, but I didn’t expect him to be so badassed. I wanted to drink a beer with the man and listen to him tell more stories about the horrors that were guerrilla warfare fought in dense jungles. I would love to go on about this, but I promised to keep this spoiler free.

 

Another part of this book that I loved was how Jason and Nick portrayed the military culture. The overall military ambiance was spot on, just what I’d expect from Army veteran Nick Cole. Nobody felt like cookie cutter clichés or parodies of the warrior, and the ethos was spot on. I loved how they showcased the relationship between the enlisted marines and the Legion officers. This was perfectly illuminated by the interactions between Lieutenant Washam and Sergeant Shotton. It was clear that Wash was ultimately in charge, but the grizzled Sergeant Shotton was pulling the strings a wee bit, guiding him along. We also got to see average soldiers/marines who weren’t just stereotypical tropes, they were humans with all of the flaws that that entails. We got to meet point officers who weren’t horrible. They were just flawed products of their upbringing, some bad and some good. These creatures, officers who’re normally hated by the lower enlisted in the readers alike, were shown to have good qualities about them. This fleshed out the concept for me, adding depth to what could be seen as a flat trope. Further, we get to see that even “good officers” like Wash can mess up. The deadly literary duo of Anspach and Cole understand the culture of the grunt and don’t shy away from the consequences of war! When military leaders mess up, good people die. I loved that they show leaders making hard choices under fire, choices that are distasteful to armchair generals judging from the safety of the sidelines. War is an ugly thing, and these authors lean into that and make sure the readers appreciate the consequences of the Pew Pew we love to read about. None of these combat actions happen in a vacuum, affecting the soldiers who are forced to make them. As someone who’s been there, I can relate to this level of attention to the details of the soldiers who fight and die under the banner of the Legion. The marines don’t come away unscathed, making their losses even more heart-wrenching. Seriously, this novel felt like I was reading about Storm Troopers in Vietnam and I really dug it!

 

And since we mentioned the Appointed Officers or points, let’s take a moment to talk about them. I love how this story showed a more nuanced view of this issue. The complexity, regarding point officers, shown in this novel made it hard to determine how I was supposed to feel about this subject. With officers like Wash, and ultimately Berlin, it is hard to say that the program is entirely horrific. The political entities were garbage, but some of the officers their program commissioned were halfway decent leaders. Obviously, we know that the good officers are the outliers for this program, but those officers had merit. If we discussed this subject in more depth, someone could argue that the good officers would have, and should have, gone through the normal commissioning channels. I would agree with that; you can’t make policy for large organizations from the margins. However, I liked that this novel showed that it could end differently. By not relying on tropes that weren’t absolute, by layering on the complexity, the authors were able to drive home the general wrongness of this program.

 

Another thing that I liked about this novel, and the universe writ large, was that I believe it has the potential to stand the test of time. It’s an awesome read for me, but it’s written in such a way that my kids could potentially read these books. Maybe play the videogames or watch the movies someday? It brought back the epic sci-fi battles that I acted out as a kid, laying in the grass playing with my action figures. As I read this novel, I found myself wishing for toys I could share with my son’s. I want them to be able to experience this setting with me, we could bond over the epic tales of heroism and duty. I could envision teaching them about the complexity of the world, of how black and white thinking didn’t always work. This world could serve as the perfect social story for the boys if I could find a way to get them hooked. I really believe that this universe has the potential to become a classic, one of those family-friendly heirloom type stories.

 

Aside from how Nick and Jason covered the military troops themselves, they made it clear that their world was flushed out and didn’t fall into some of the traps most military sci-fi did. The troops run out of ammo, dumb luck happens, and good men still die. (Still bitter) In this novel, luckily, the carnage was contained by the tight focus on the small unit attached to Major Berlin. The action was intense, and the characters responded as you’d expect in those circumstances. Moving right along, the ground combat described was primal, and immersive. I had to rethink my life choices after reading this novel! Seriously, why didn’t I get to sign up for the Legion with Washam and Subs? This novel was everything you want from the genre. The battle scenes were believable, gripping and I never felt like the author missed a chance to get creative with the tactics. It was textbook KTF, the mantra of the Legionnaire! Kill them first! Such a detailed portrayal of the tactics is rare.

 

I listened to this novel on my daily walks, so I couldn’t comment on any grammatical or technical issues with this book, but it did contribute to a healthier me! Action so intense I literally sweated with them! Okay, I’ll lay off the dad jokes and move on to the conclusion. I realize I’ve gone full fanboy, but the authors have definitely raised the bar for military science fiction authors everywhere. I imagine you aren’t surprised that I fanboy out over this, I mean I did start their fan club on Facebook. I was hooked from the first page because they wove the action in such a compelling way that you wanted to jump into the page and join the party. Some of that was because I’m already invested in this world, but if you’ve been following me, you already know that. Basically, they had me hooked from the beginning and kept it going throughout the whole novel. This is a book I would happily recommend, and an author I will definitely read again. Buy the novel!  But hey, it’s easy to spend someone else’s money!  I give this novel a 5 out of 5 grenades! 

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

brown_bess

JR

 

–> As usual, all images came from Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are used on the Fair Use Doctrine.

 

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