3 min read

Labour Day

Sabre on a hardwood floor, attached to belt
Old Faithful, my favourite sabre

In some ways, today is the day I really see the joy of becoming a full-time writer.

I can't afford my favourite coffees anymore, so as of today I'm drinking grocery store coffee. Brand name coffee, not the bulk bin coffee. Not yet. Got myself a bag of Kicking Horse Hoodo Jo, because it used to be a coffee I liked, before I got into the new generation of roasts. It's described as a medium roast, with a "robust/wild berry/distinctive" flavour. It's none of those.

It's another in a long line of Starbucks clones, where the actual flavour is various shades of burnt tire. Ideally aimed towards someone whose idea of a good coffee involves lots of cream and sugar, who still wants to taste some coffee through all of that. Coming from drinking coffees like Luna Coffee's Juicebox series, this is a punch in the face. I should know. I've been punched in the face a lot.

It really sucks that most brand-name coffees today fit this same profile. They describe their roasts as light/medium/dark but they are all over-roasted for the flavour profile, because that's what consumers expect. It's like the same issue I find with beer these days. It's like the 70s all over again. Back then, you could only get lame pilsners that all tastes piss-like. Then craft brewing came along and suddenly you could taste delicious malts. Now every damned beer is an IPA, regardless of what they say it is on the label. I've actually stopped drinking beer entirely because of that. Not giving up on coffee, though. Hopefully, I can find an affordable actual medium/light roast somewhere.

I finished Marko Kloos's "Frontlines" series of books this weekend, after the last book was just released. Damn, was that good. It's been an interesting run, as this was the first series I bought completely digitally. I wanted to see if the ebook thing was going to be readable or not, and the first book was on sale. I didn't think much of it at first. Mostly because I was used to a different kind of writing voice and POV. It read as a standard military scifi tale. Outcast joins the military, faces trials, succeeds. Nothing groundbreaking. Whoooo boy, did that change.

It's a bit like John Ringo's "A Hymn Before Battle" in that when it came out, alien invasion books were dead (aside from Niven and Pournelle's amazing "Footfall").  Ringo offered a fresh take and made it awesome again, at least for a few books. Kloos, in this series, doesn't so much revitalize the Military Science Fiction genre as he defines what it should now be. This series is actually better than Starship Troopers for my money. It's better written, more human, and also more alien. As a result, it offers a much grander scope.

The aliens are truly alien, with an almost lovecraftian creepiness that shows up from time to time. Kloos conveys a wonderful sense of helplessness in the face of them, while also showing human indomitableness. The usual tropes of the genre are all there, with the "level up" rank promotions, incompetent superiors, etc, but they all get a more realistic touch. And more so, the author draws you in to the main character, and you absolutely feel you are experiencing what they go through.

It's going to be the standard reference book for the genre, now. The writer has a strong craft that grows from book to book. When I say craft, I mean they know how to handle the beats and work to your expectations as a reader. They setup and deliver exactly what you want, but they do it their own way so you never get pulled out of the story.

The last book finishes the series, and it's clear that the main character's story has been completely told by the author. Nothing more to tell, and that's very satisfying. However, the setting grew with power and engagement over the series, and it leaves you wanting more stories. Kloos created a future that feels like it lives and breathes on its own, and I dearly hope that he's planning on letting other writers play in his universe and write their own works in it. It's ripe for an "expanded universe."

If you're into military scifi, absolutely recommend reading it.