Read First Light by Linda Nagata Online


Reality TV and advanced technology make for high drama in this political thriller that combines the military action of Zero Dark Thirty with the classic science fiction of The Forever War.Lieutenant James Shelley, who has an uncanny knack for premeditating danger, leads a squad of advanced US Army military tasked with enforcing the peace around a conflict in sub-Saharan AfReality TV and advanced technology make for high drama in this political thriller that combines the military action of Zero Dark Thirty with the classic science fiction of The Forever War.Lieutenant James Shelley, who has an uncanny knack for premeditating danger, leads a squad of advanced US Army military tasked with enforcing the peace around a conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. The squad members are linked wirelessly 24/7 to themselves and a central intelligence that guides them via drone relay—and unbeknownst to Shelley and his team, they are being recorded for a reality TV show.When an airstrike almost destroys their outpost, a plot begins to unravel that’s worthy of Crichton and Clancy’s best. The conflict soon involves rogue defense contractors, corrupt US politicians, and homegrown terrorists who possess nuclear bombs. Soon Shelley must accept that the helpful warnings in his head could be AI. But what is the cost of serving its agenda?...

Title : First Light
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781481440936
Format Type : Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages : 405 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

First Light Reviews

  • Mogsy (MMOGC)
    2019-01-28 03:42

    4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum ever you hear someone say women can’t write military science fiction, please do me a favor and smack them over the head with this book. First Light is the excellent, smart, and action-packed introduction to The Red series, originally indie-published but re-released again recently by a major publisher along with an audiobook – because it is JUST. THAT. GOOD.Seriously, it doesn’t get more edge-of-your-seat than this near-future thriller, which seamlessly blends advanced technology and military action with political drama. In First Light, readers get to meet protagonist Lieutenant James Shelley in an explosive introduction. Stationed in a remote military outpost deep in the Sahel, Shelley and his team work round-the-clock to enforce the peace and gather intelligence in the area, aided by a cyber-framework that keeps them all wirelessly linked. But that was all before the devastating airstrike.Shelley barely makes it out alive, saved by the mysterious power of precognition that he possesses, a phenomenon not even the top military scientists can explain. The attack, however, had cost him both his legs, forcing Shelley to agree to an experimental cybernetics program involving synthetic legs and a permanent monitoring “skullcap” implanted in his head. Very Robocop-ish stuff. While recovering, Shelley is hit with another whammy: all throughout his assignment in Sub-Saharan Africa, he and his team had been recorded for a reality TV show. The lines begin to blur for Shelley as tough questions come to the surface. What is real and what is artificial? Who or what is this voice in his head, and is it as benign as it wants him to think? Hidden forces are steering humanity towards an unknown agenda, and for whatever reason, Shelley is at the center of this storm.There’s so much happening in this first volume, sometimes it gets hard to tease apart the threads. The story’s first act transports readers to its not-too-distant future, describing the soldiers and their state-of-the-art military tech which includes everything from combat armor to surveillance drones. Shelley and his team are hooked into the central intelligence network at all times, physiologically and mentally monitored and even altered by their gear. A process even kicks in for soldiers on the same squad which makes them regard each other as close as siblings, encouraging familial bonds of loyalty while at the same time removing distractions which might be caused by any sexual desire.But the technology is also far from perfect. It is not uncommon for soldiers like Shelley to become “emo-junkies”, becoming overly dependent on the processes of the skullcaps they wear. You can never be sure whether or not the emotions you feel are really yours, or if they are being controlled or altered by the skullnet. This question of “what’s real vs. what’s not” is a recurring theme that pops up throughout the novel, in many different contexts. War is also introduced as something prevalent and inevitable, a powerful driving force behind the economy. Soldiers are treated like property in this world where reality TV shows can be made of their lives without them even knowing about it, while rich CEOs of big defense contractors play games of political chance using the world as their game board.This is actually a major premise in the second half of the novel, broadening the scope of the story to tackle conflicts with more significant and far-reaching consequences. The sequence of events that make up the climax and the ending of this book had to be one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had with an audiobook. My heart was pounding the whole time as I listened, and you probably couldn’t have convinced me to take off my headphones even if the house was on fire.I only have a minor gripe specific to the audiobook, and it is related to the narrator. Kevin T. Collins’ performance was good, and I love his enthusiasm. But this also means he sometimes overacts, his voice bordering on frantic. Good for when we’re in those tense scenes, but very distracting when we’re not.Nevertheless, this book has my full recommendation, especially for fans of military science fiction. It’s certainly the best of this genre that I’ve read in a good long while. First Light is engaging, intelligent, and full of thrills. It’s been getting all kinds of attention lately, and now I understand why.

  • Bradley
    2019-01-30 02:44

    Ready, Set, Fight for what you believe!This is a fairly fast-action milspec SF with great cyberpunk tones, but it's still more than just that. I mean, how many times do you get a modern military thriller with thematic tones of Daniel and Goliath, prophets, and some serious questioning of reality?Oh, wait... :)Still, this is one of easiest reads and clearest expressions of all those ideas that I've read, no obfuscation or trickiness. This is straight faith in your commanding officer and a willingness to throw away your career (even if you're heavily dependent on a huge support staff because you're a cyborg) in the service of your ideals.What might have been a straight and interesting twist on cynical mission-based objectives quickly took a turn for the worse when we add mysterious hackers, a world-wide popular broadcast of one's fighting adventures, and the widespread subversion of the people's perceptions of reality through propaganda through personal "filters" that are a thin reference to our own world of ever narrowing perceptions.(We find those people who think and feel the way we do, cultivate those ideas, and slowly begin to lose sight of the fact that there's a much wider world full of people who don't believe as you do.)Kinda obvious, right? Well what happens when all of those constantly-adjusting google algorithms narrows everyone's perceptions so well that no one can even know what the truth is?Ah, I guess this is the time for a hot knife to meet some butter, right?I may not like milspec that much, but I have a very, very high tolerance for anything that is just plain good, and this is good. :)I'm looking forward to more!

  • Jon
    2019-02-12 05:28

    A good military sci-fi novel that puts a new sheen to some well worn genre conventions and does so with a nice streak of cynicism and some very subtle black humor. The novel takes place in the not too distant future and Nagata does a good job of extrapolating the tech with which a mid-21st Century soldier would be outfitted. Besides advanced weaponry, her future soldiers wear powered exoskeletons and rely upon advanced surveillance drones called “angels” to reconnoiter the surrounding area while they are on patrol. The elite combat team in the novel also has neural interfaces that link them to each other, their drones, and to a distant controller that provides them with up to the minute intel based on satellite reconnaissance. The combat scenes in the novel are well done, exciting and action filled, but without unnecessary gore.As the novel opens, the main character, Lieutenant Shelly, is in command of a small outpost in Africa’s Sahel region where US troops have intervened in a regional conflict. Shelly has an almost preternatural ability to sense danger when he and his team are out on patrol. Almost as if God is whispering a warning in his ear. As the novel progresses, it turns out that something is whispering in his ear. An emergent AI that exists in the Cloud has taken an interest in the human race and is subtly trying to influence people and events. The question of free will arises often in the novel as characters, at times, question whether their actions are their own or whether The Red (as the AI is soon nicknamed) is manipulating them. An AI interfering with human activity isn’t exactly a new plot point, but Nagata does a good job with the idea. One of the things I liked best about the book is that there’s a strong streak of cynicism that runs throughout it. In the opening of the novel, Shelly explains to a new recruit why they are in Africa:“There needs to be a war going on somewhere, Sergeant Vasquez. It’s a fact of life. Without a conflict of decent size, too many international defense contractors will find themselves out of business. So if no natural war is looming, you can count on the DCs to get together to invent one……. ideas start getting tossed around until one of the DCs says, ‘Hey, I’ve got it. Let’s do a war in the Sahel. It’s good, open terrain. No nasty jungles. It’s not quite desert, and we’ve already got a figurehead in Ahab Matugo.’ This sounds pretty good to everybody so they agree: the next regional war, the one that will keep them in business for another three or four years, or even a decade if things go well, is right here in Africa’s Sahel, between the equatorial rainforest and the Sahara.So we Americans… we don’t jump in right away. We have another war to wind up first, so we promise to intervene when humanitarian issues demand it—but we don’t discuss what side to come in on because it doesn’t fucking matter. Everyone knows we don’t understand the local politics and we don’t give a shit anyway. There’s nothing in this region we want. The only reason we’re jumping in is so that our defense contractors can keep their shareholders happy. The American taxpayers will listen to their hoo-rah propaganda media outlets and pony up the money, blaming the libruls for the bad economy, while brain-draining the underclass into the army because hey, it’s a job, and even the DCs can’t convince Congress to spend ten-million dollars each on a combat robot when you can get a fully qualified flesh-and-blood high-IQ soldier for two hundred and fifty thousand.”In Nagata’s world, politicians are whores who put the interests of their constituents last and soldiers are pawns who unknowingly fight for the interests of the rich. Is it an Occupy Wall Street view of military conflict? Perhaps, but I prefer that to something more jingoistic. It’s one of the rich elites who is the main villain of the novel. The AI, itself, remains an enigmatic presence in the background, helping those whose goals match it’s own interests.The black humor is subtle in the novel. At one point, without their knowledge, the military splices feed from their interfaces into a reality TV show called “The Dark Patrol.” The team, particularly Shelly, soon become media stars. The suggestion that the AI is responsible for the germination of the idea is brought up, but isn’t explored as completely as it could have been. The idea of an AI using the media and reality TV to manipulate the public definitely has potential for satire. This is the first novel in a trilogy, so perhaps it will be explored in later books.Overall, a good novel and if we could give 1/2 stars, I would definitely rate it 3 1/2. My only complaint is that after a strong start in Sahel, Shelly finds himself back stateside where the action stalls for quite a bit. Things pick up again at the halfway mark and the book finishes strongly.

  • Nino
    2019-01-25 00:26

    Vrlo uzbudljiv i zanimljiv cyber-military-techno sf u bliskoj budućnosti. Naš junak James Shelley zapovjednik je tzv. LCS ekipe (Linked Combat Squad), jedne vrlo vesele i skladne borbene jedinice čiji je zadatak patroliranje terena u potrazi za pobunjenicima negdje u Afričkoj zapizdini. Shelley vjeruje u teoriju zavjere da svijet treba držati u stalnom stanju ratovanja kako vojno-industrijski kompleks ne bi ostao bez zarade. To znači, ako nema rata - treba ga osmisliti.Shelleyeva ekipa nisu neki luzeri, nego pravi vojnici budućnosti, opremljeni egzoskeletonima za poboljšanje kretnji, na ćelavo obrijanim glavama nose 'skullcap' kapicu koja im spraši u mozak razne kemikalije za stimulaciju da ne pošize od ratnih strahota, stalno su umreženi jedni s drugima, a iznad njihovih glava ih pazi dron kojim upravlja AI, koji im šalje na vizor pregled terena i potencijalne mete, pomaže im u ciljanju i pucanju, a može se s njim i zajebavati k'o s pravim čovjekom. Bliska budućnot je baš fun!No Shelley je poznat po tome da u borbi dobije neki predosjećaj, šapat u uho od nepoznatog izvora (Bog? AI?) koji ga upozorava na opasnosti. Tako na početku izvuče svoju ekipu iz baze taman pred njenim neočekivanim uništenjem od mlaznih lovaca, no cijeli događaj završi smrću nekih njegovih suboraca, a on izgubi obje noge. Ali to nije bed, jer vojska odluči testirati na njemu prototip biomehaničkih nogu koje mora treningom savladati jer ga vojska opet treba! A ne smetaju mu nove noge ni u seksualnim eskapadama s djevojkom Lissom, jer što se mora, mora se!Istovremeno, u većim gradovima diljem SAD-a, dogodi se serija nuklearnih eksplozija u čijoj pozadini stoji pobunjena vojska iz Texasa koja želi nezavisnost od SAD-a, pa eto posla za Shelleyevu ekipu, a Shelley se počinje zapitkivati čiji zapravo glas ga upozorava na opasnosti i kroji njegove postupke. Zanimljiva mi je teorija da je to jedan oblik umjetne inteligencije čiji je izvor na tzv. Cloudu (kao internet budućnosti), kao samostalni (svjesni?) analitički program ili virus na strani dobra, koji ima zadatak usmjeriti čovječanstvo k boljoj budućnosti:"Imagine it has data tentacles everywhere, reaching into browsing and buying records; game worlds; chats; texts; friend networks; phone conversations; airline, banking, utility, and entertainment records; GPS locations; surveillance cameras; whatever. It could know more about us than a spouse or lover knows. It could figure out who we really are, and what we really want—down to the dreams we won’t admit to ourselves—and then steer us in that direction, onto new paths that optimize who we are, that lead us toward the lives we’re best suited to live.”Mislim da će ovo postati okosnica sljedećih nastavaka, koje već trpam u košaricu. Svidjet će vam se ova knjiga ako ste ljubitelj, recimo, pucačina Deus Ex ili CoD: Advanced Warfare, ali i filmova Robocop, Elysium i Edge of Tomorrow, jer od svakog primjera posuđuje nešto.

  • Stefan
    2019-02-21 02:25

    There are many possible reasons why I’ll choose certain books for review. Most often it’s simply because they look promising. Occasionally it’s because I’m a fan of the author, series, or (sub-)genre. Sometimes I just get drawn in by something intriguing or odd in the publicity copy.But every once in awhile there’s a book that, I feel, just deserves more attention, a book that’s not getting read enough for some reason. In those cases, it’s wonderful that I can take advantage of the generous platform gives me to introduce people to what I consider hidden gems.Case in point, Linda Nagata’s excellent, independently-published military SF novel The Red: First Light, which, if I can just skip to the point for people who don’t like to read longer reviews, you should go ahead and grab right now, especially if you’re into intelligent, cynical military SF. If you want more detail, read on.Read the entire review on my site Far Beyond Reality! Edit: here's a new guest post by the author about the brand new Saga Press edition of the novel!

  • Robyn
    2019-01-21 01:29

    Fast-paced, engaging military sci-fi. The overarching conspiracy is one that I can't wait to untangle and I liked the main character a great deal. Not my usual sort of book but I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

  • Chris Berko
    2019-02-15 21:35

    A solid, tightly written action thriller. Cool story, cool characters, a pretty fun book.

  • Nathan
    2019-01-27 01:21

    In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war… No that isn’t right. The sentiment is right, but we are not dealing with the far future here.Start over.War is hell, war is eternal, and war is damn good for business. And if war is a business then that leaves very little room for peace. Lieutenant James Shelley leads a combat squad far from home, because there is an old saying about things that shouldn’t be done where one eats. The squad is linked through the cloud, plugged in through a skullcap that leaves the soldiers of tomorrow forever connected. Emotions can be controlled, information disseminated, and every action watched through the eyes of these armored soldiers to keep the war machine moving.Shelley is used to following certain premonitions to keep his squad safe, earning him the nickname of King David. Failing to follow them causes a disaster; and opens up a whole new path. The already cynical soldier finds himself learning more than he wants about the way his world works; war shown as entertainment and just how secure the linked net the army relies on are suddenly transparent. More importantly he learns to what lengths the powers that be are willing to go to in order to keep things going their way.Dark military sci-fi with a distinct political angle. The military industrial complex is the true power in this near future story; political heads bow to its will. The ‘dragons’ that run it can start a new war on a whim; and wag the dog so people believe the justification just as fast. A civil war can be constructed in minutes and yet even the complex has no ideas when a rogue agent worms into the system they have ruled from.The Red: First Light is action packed around its political maneuvering. Shelley finds himself a more recognizable and seemingly important figure as his story moves on, but we see the pawn he remains behind the scenes until he has a chance to maybe make a difference. Seeing the world through his cynical eyes and then watching how invisible hands work everything is a trip; even as the book ends it is hard to tell what was accomplished and who can be claiming victory. “You will go to hell for it, for all eternity, and after the Devil has flayed off your skin, he’ll fuck you while you’re lying on a bed of coals.”With its harsh language and obvious political bent I would imagine not everyone will be completely enthralled. The book can also be broken up into separate parts that play very different; the middle deals with the making of a new kind of soldier and is paced much slower than the rest of the book. But I give you the most obvious book comparison, one Starship Troopers. Both deal with mechanized soldiers on the periphery, and the political ramifications front and center. They just approach it from different views and I for one welcome our new cynical overlord.Highly recommended for fans of military fiction, sci-fi, or for anyone looking to question everything about what drives the world economic decisions.4 Stars

  • Ian Mond
    2019-02-14 05:34

    There’s a point, just before the halfway mark of The Red: First Light, where it looks like Nagata is about to pull the rug out from underneath the reader. What starts off as your average military SF novel, with a side order of cynicism, suddenly shifts gear. Our hero, Lieutenant Shelley, is ordered to meet with defence contractor, power broker and arms dealer Thelma Sheridan. She says to him:"You are being used, Lieutenant. For what purpose remains unclear, but there is a force at large in the world interfering in the affairs of Man. We built its house, when we built the Cloud. Now it moves among us, bleeding through every conflict, every transaction, watching, manipulating – and it does not have our best interests in mind."Soon after this meeting with Sheridan, there’s speculation that this same force – an emerging AI – may be using a reality TV show about Shelley and his Unit to influence the thoughts of the millions watching the series.For a just a moment it seems that Nagata is going to dispense with the ‘Military’ and focus on the SF as she narrows in on the idea of an emergent AI using the media and the narrative of reality TV to influence the population.But that thread never really goes anywhere. Yes, the Red – as the AI is referred to – is a constant presence throughout the rest of the novel, a sort of dues ex machina that pops in and out of the plot when required, but the philosophical crunchiness of an accidental AI manipulating the populace through the press and reality TV shows, is lost in all the shooting and righteousness and nuclear explosions. In other words, after a brief hiatus the Military SF switch is flicked back to ‘on’ and what could have been a brave shift in focus becomes a hum drum shoot em up, damsels in distress included.If you enjoy MilSF – and there’s a certainly an audience out there if Baen’s publication history is anything to go by – then I’m sure you’ll find The Red: First Light entertaining. Nagata’s clean, almost transparent prose, means the novel is a quick read. But for me this Nebula nominated novel is a disappointment. There’s the enticing hint of another, more interesting, book just under the surface that sadly never breaks past the trappings of the sub genre. I wanted more. But maybe I was always the wrong audience.

  • Jack
    2019-02-10 05:41

    An enjoyable, thought-provoking book. Consider reading this one even if you do not normally read sci-fi/military books. Nagata created a good mix of characterization with the underlying commentary and themes of free-will vs. Artificial Intelligence, media manipulation, and the military-industrial complex. The book is well-paced and avoids a deus ex machina resolution.

  • Justine
    2019-01-20 23:28

    4.5 stars rounded up.Near future military SF combined with political thriller elements make this a fast-paced and entertaining read. There isn't much to improve on here, and I'm definitely looking forward to the next book.

  • Ctgt
    2019-01-29 21:34

    It’s about perspective. It’s not that what we know is necessarily wrong or incomplete. It’s that what we know and what we believe to be apparent to everyone, isn’t.”I briefly perused a review of this book on Kirkus and my library had a digital copy so I figured it worth a shot. What I expected was a near future military thriller and while I got that from the book I also found a interesting look at the information age in which we now find ourselves.Lt. James Shelley is the leader of an LCS, linked combat squad, running missions against insurgents out of remote border forts. The lcs is where the video game aspect comes in to play, soldiers use an exoskeleton to enhance their physical abilities and the members are linked through a skullcap which in turn connects with a drone (Angel) and feeds information to all members of the squad as well as an offsite guidance officer.Like every other LCS soldier, my brain is randomly peppered with a myriad of tiny organic implants called “neuromodulating microbeads.” The position and function of each bead is known to the skullcap. Some are chemical sensors that signal deviations from a baseline, while others can be directed by the skullcap to stimulate neurochemical production.Shelley has become something of a legend, King David, because of his "premonitions" about impending danger, premonitions that occur without the help of the drone or the guidance officer. This is where the story goes beyond a normal action/adventure/video game format. In this world, everything is connected in some fashionImagine it has data tentacles everywhere, reaching into browsing and buying records; game worlds; chats; texts; friend networks; phone conversations; airline, banking, utility, and entertainment records; GPS locations; surveillance cameras; whatever.” Her fingers return to my shoulder. “It could know more about us than a spouse or lover knows. It could figure out who we really are, and what we really want—down to the dreams we won’t admit to ourselves—and then steer us in that direction, onto new paths that optimize who we are, that lead us toward the lives we’re best suited to live.”There are some thoughtful moments spent on how we filter the information we consume. In theory, publicly available information should be able to flow freely in the Cloud, but it doesn’t work that way because people filter what they hear. So the Cloud gets divided into millions of bubbles”—he presses his fists together—“and information has a hard time moving between them. Filters let some ideas through, but block others—”“So? No one’s got time to listen to it all.”“—and every one of us winds up trapped in our own little realities. Shelley, when you look at how many filters there are, it’s kind of amazing that most Americans can even tell you who the president is—but some people don’t even know that, and it’s not a language barrier—”I try to cut him off. “It’s where you live and who you know.”“And who we choose to know.I know I am guilty of this particular filtering process, I tend to ignore the shouting and posturing of current political discourse(if you can call it discourse) on both sides of the spectrum and as a result end up ignoring many of the current thoughts on a wide range of social issues. I'm certain civil discussions can be found but it seems very hard to track them down amongst the raving talking heads whose sole purpose seems to be attracting a voyueristic audience and money from ad sponsors as opposed to a real discussion of the issues.Any of you who are cynical about the military industrial complex will be inerested in this world where DC, defense contractors, control certain geographic areas and will actually incite wars in other DC's areas while simultaneously manipulating what types of weapons may be needed so as to match their own inventory.This is the setting for our story with Shelley and his squad defending the fort from attack by an unknown source who is also able to shutdown their linked network. The attack seems to be related to a recent rumor concerning The Red, a "virus" that has been suspected in some compromises of the network. Is this part of another DC plot or is there something or someone else trying to crash the system?This book surprised me. The writing itself is nothing spectacular but it wasn't horrible and it certainly didn't get in the way of the story so while this probably deserves a 7 I'm giving it 8/10 for the going beyond my expectations on several levels. Definitely continuing with the series.

  • Suzanne
    2019-02-06 23:36

    This was good near-future military fiction - I thought the integration of technology was very plausible, and I liked the discussion of filters and perception - it was spot-on!

  • Stefan
    2019-01-23 23:35

    There are many possible reasons why I’ll choose certain books for review. Most often it’s simply because they look promising. Occasionally it’s because I’m a fan of the author, series, or (sub-)genre. Sometimes I just get drawn in by something intriguing or odd in the publicity copy.But every once in awhile there’s a book that, I feel, just deserves more attention, a book that’s not getting read enough for some reason. In those cases, it’s wonderful that I can take advantage of the generous platform gives me to introduce people to what I consider hidden gems.Case in point, Linda Nagata’s excellent, independently-published military SF novel The Red: First Light, which, if I can just skip to the point for people who don’t like to read longer reviews, you should go ahead and grab right now, especially if you’re into intelligent, cynical military SF. If you want more detail, read on.Read the entire review on my site Far Beyond Reality! Edit: here's a new guest post by the author about the brand new Saga Press edition of the novel!

  • Charlie
    2019-02-07 01:40

    There are things I liked a lot - this is a military story which has zero sexism and zero racism, and the technological and ethical aspects felt unsettlingly current - but boy did it become a slog to read, so much so that the only feeling I had when the book ended was relief. Everything is long-winded and over explained, except for the romance, which is peculiarly underwritten, dull, and unconvincing. The action scenes and descriptions of technology, on the other hand, are detailed to a fault. This should have felt cinematic, but instead it read like an instruction manual I wasn't especially interested in reading. Overlong and underwhelming.

  • Sarah
    2019-01-31 23:26

    A thrilling, chilling near-future character-driven military science fiction novel. The tech is well explained, the action is cinematic, and the questions of privacy and loyalty and control raised by the plot are very relevant. I just read the last fifty pages on my computer - by far my least favorite way to read -because I couldn't stand not knowing what happened while my eReader is in the throes of some sort of breakdown. Looking forward to the sequel.

  • Scott
    2019-02-04 03:21

    I enjoyed this book immensely as is obvious by the rating I gave it. Not only was it fast paced and action packed, but it was filled with interesting characters and cool technology. Also makes you think about what would happen if/when giant corporations that specialize in "defense" gain too much power. The end felt sort of abrupt, but I think this trilogy will need to be taken as one long book, not three separate ones. Completely hooked on the story, though, that's for sure

  • Jaci
    2019-01-26 01:25

    Alright, a belated full review of this. Now that some time has passed, for better or worse, my passionate & fiery response to the eventual outcome of this novel has lessened. So maybe not the full rant I was about to initially go into, but something a little more in depth nevertheless.I've been eyeing this series for months, so my anticipation on eventually getting my hands on this first book was high. Something I can say for novels in other genres at least, I love books that center on similar military themes. That tight-knit, disciplined, brothers and sisters on the battlefield yarn -- something that starts solid in the first third of this book at least, makes a promise to. This novel shares elements of other media that I also love: the subject of cybernetic augmentations and their various implications in, say, Deus Ex for instance; the godlike AI in Person of Interest that guides the cast; or the government-controlled mass media distortion of The Hunger Games.Just on the principle of the premise, I wanted to like this. The main character held potential, had a likable personality, showed flaws regarding his dependency on technology, and held an intriguing role as something of an unlikely cyber-prophet. He was given a full cast of supportive team members, family, friends and an estranged love interest, all to round out the story and complement his journey. (The entire cast, to its credit, is also incredibly diverse.)But to dump a bucket of ice water on this review, while I was ready to offer this book a higher rating along with some reservations, like a few other notable books read this year, by halfway point the plot takes a CONSIDERABLE DIVE and my hope never again saw the light of day. What I saw initially as potential was never fulfilled. At first my reservations were that, perhaps, the author was simply rushing certain scenes and had a bit of an issue with pacing out this very action-packed plot; but they fully unloaded as I went beyond the game-changing events of the book's midway point and all the way to the end mission.I can't recommend this book; I'm not sure I have enough desire to see if things improve in the next. Because as much as I enjoyed the premise, and the promise of the book, the plot inevitably unfolds in the most cliche and derivative manner -- completely telegraphed and especially if you've watched any Michael Bay/Popcorn Blockbuster/Shoot 'Em Ups over the course of your life. This is late night cable movie plot at its most basic and derivative, doing a disservice to itself, and is both formulaic and disappointing. Whatever unconventional twists and turns another storyteller might make, this takes a painful route to avoid.The plot withers, the characterizations become shallow, the romance becomes a minefield of painful tropes, and whatever moral conflict or nuance that could have been disappears under black and white certainty and caricature-levels of Good versus Evil. Which is all pretty harsh to write, I'll admit, but it's painful when I wanted so much more from this book.

  • Cathy
    2019-02-19 01:29

    I'm not usually that into military sci-fi but I read Nagata's very good story Codename:Delphi in Lightspeed Magazine a few years ago and was intrigued by the characters and situation she'd created. She said in the Author Spotlight that the story was a response to the book, a point of view that she wasn't able to present in the novel. I couldn't get the book at that time because it was self-published, but when I saw that it was re-issued by a traditional publisher I ordered it from my library right away. I turned out to be the kind of military book that worked well for me because it focused a lot on character, less on battle. The fights that are in it are smaller scale and fast-paced, not big armies and endless discussions of positions and maneuvers and such. It was an interesting sci-fi story that followed a lot of potential circumstances from current times to potential outcomes, like defense contractors, what becomes of powerful algorithms that are analyzing our every whim and whimsy, advances in medical science, all sorts of things. Nothing that happens in the book seems outlandish, if much of it feels infuriating. But that's the point, the social commentary is supposed to get you worked up. I liked very much that Nagata's future isn't whitewashed, there are people of all shades and cultural backgrounds, it feels like a more legitimate future America than most that I see. And the guy on the cover actually looks like the guy in the book, he isn't whitewashed either, a joy to behold. And it's very well-balanced between women and men, just about the best balance I've seen at all levels of responsibility, and done simply and without fuss. It's just a fact of life that women hold all positions from Army private to senior officers, from medical grunt to surgeon, and no one questions their authority or ability at anything any more than they would the men. That seems an obvious thing except that it doesn't happen in most books, not even books written by women, not like this. It's good near-future sci-fi, probably more of a 3..5-3.75 star book, but the writing is good and there's no reason to round down and not up.

  • Katharine Kerr
    2019-02-06 04:26

    THE RED: FIRST LIGHT starts out as a near-future military SF adventure, but it soon turns into something deeper and far more interesting. Nagata combines a solid understand of where digital implants and "personal connectivity" may be taking us with a thoughtful look at the power of Big Money and its corruptions in America. The strong characterizations and overall suspense, however, keep the book from ever lapsing into Message and Political Rant. I stayed up way too late to finish it.

  • Trike
    2019-02-01 01:42

    As the saying goes, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. The first impression I had from this book was not good. As you can see from the 4-star rating, I changed my mind.Honestly, I'm not sure why I kept reading after the opening pages. The main character was speaking in polemic infodumps which felt clumsy and out of place, it was about a war in Africa somewhere which is not a topic that interests me, and Nagata killed all the dogs. (That last one is a biggie. Before I go see a movie, I always check the website Does The Dog Die? I've been in animal rescue for 34 years and I've seen things that give me nightmares, so I prefer my dogs unharmed.)So why I kept reading, I don't know.Which is sort of what this story is about. US Army Lieutenant James Shelley somehow "knows" things before they happen. One of his squad mates believes it to be the voice of God, keeping them out of harm's way. Shelley himself doesn't know what to make of it, but it turns out the likeliest culprit is an autonomous program existing in the Internet, distributed throughout the cloud.Soldiers wear skullcaps which monitor and control their emotions, making them more effective in combat. (Nagata first used this idea in a short story in the collection War Stories: New Military Science Fiction, and develops more fully here.) Problem is, this rogue program might be manipulating soldiers and equipment for its own mysterious ends.If I have a primary complaint, it's that we never get a resolution as to what this program might be. Is it an AI? Is it simpler than that? We just get a lot of speculation by different characters. I presume this is something to be answered in sequels.Turns out that perpetual small wars in the future are good for business, and they're basically managed by defense contractors in order to prop up the bottom line. It doesn't matter what the human cost is, so long as the bank account stays full. In order to popularize these efforts, the skullcaps and Google Glass-type headgear the soldiers wear -- combined with security camera footage -- is being edited into a reality TV show showing actual combat.I'm not too clear on how this works or why the Army would think it's a good idea, but it does add another layer of both weirdness to the situation and motivation for the various characters. It's entirely possible that the rogue program, dubbed "The Red", is influencing people in charge to let this happen for its own reasons. That would be an interesting wrinkle, and it would certainly fit the facts as presented.That would also be scary, because it would mean that the program is both more pervasive and insidious than even the most paranoid characters believe it to be. We would essentially all be puppets.This is a pretty dark story. It's grim and nasty and full of sadness. But to balance it out, it's also intriguing, offering interesting ideas to ponder about the future of war and being plugged in all the time.

  • Ric
    2019-02-10 03:27

    Military SF with a twist. Was eager to get started on this first venture by Maui-an Linda Nagata into this sub-genre. The audiobook took a while to get to Audible, and all I had to go on was a real teaser of a first chapter.Anyway, the story starts with an escalating sequence of battle scenes involving a squad of grunts led by ill-fated Lt. Shelley. Sure, this works as a good hook, harbinger of more tightly choreographed, quite cinematic action sequences. The author uses this opportunity to introduce some of the backstory of Shelley and the state of the world, embodied in the very catchy slogan, "there's always a war somewhere", found on the cover blurb. And in there, amidst the sturm und drang of a backwater skirmish, the first signs of the titular Red.Very Heinlein-ish, as many contemporary military Sf tend to be, to my jaded mind, having read far too many books in the genre, but then this is where most of the cool SF elements tend to show up, in the militarization of new tech. In the case of First Light, these comprise of powered armor and enhanced prosthetics, linked command squads, computer consciousness, small nukes, and some weird from of hacking, dropped into a world of political unrest, ever-powerful "defense contractors", a Texas hankering for independence, and Wozniak-like fear of artificial intelligence. The narrative takes several unexpected turns after the initial action oriented chapters. It seemed to me the author was dropping plot elements to be picked up in later books, so I was distracted, and thus failed to see the overall plot, at least not until I was almost out of narrative to read. I thought this to be the story of a grunt, his journey from a novice, to his baptism in fire, to his travails on the path to understanding his lot in life, and then his re-upping to confirm who he truly was, a soldier directed into war by others. But it turns out I was mistaken and there is more here than meets the eye. The book does end with more action that satisfied that easily-pleased side of me. But beware, this book has a deeper, more sinister point than just that of a grunt lost in the confusion of war. If anything, I am now eagerly looking forward to what's next.It was worth the read, and if not for the middle section where my focus wandered, compelling. 4 stars I think.

  • Amanda
    2019-02-18 01:40

    Fast paced, action packed military sci-fi with some interesting politics thrown in. Really enjoyed both the book and the audio production on this one. Looking forward to the next book.

  • Ran
    2019-02-18 22:30

    Lt. Shelley is serving a prison sentence out as military service in the middle of Africa. Despite not being particularly on board with the military and its insidious for-profit defense contractor relationship, Shelley wants to keep his team alive. Luckily for him, he has the King David complex where God (view spoiler)[or you know, a sentience AI marketing program (same thing, right?) (hide spoiler)] is whispering preeminent danger in his ear ... or his skull cap controlling micro-beads in his brain's emotional center. Just before Shelley's camp gets blown up, he gets one of these feelings and shouts in panic for his team to GTFO before an airstrike takes the place out ... including two of Shelley's squad and Shelley's own legs. Then Shelley gets to re-up his contract with the military in exchange for cool robot legs. And starts a second saga in the book, including this off-on relationship with his programming girlfriend. Did I like it? I'm on the fence about it. Some of it was interesting; some of it was completely boring ... I guess I think it had promise but just had a pacing issue. Maybe the next book in the series will find its pacing legs for the marathon I imagine Nagata has set up from the readers. I don't know if I'm enthralled enough with Shelley's perspective to pick up the next book though.

  • Michael Hicks
    2019-01-31 02:38

    [Note: This review was originally published at AudioBook Reviewer,]Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light is a superb military sci-fi thriller, and, for the most part, the narration from Kevin T. Collins does a darn fine job pulling the listener into the story and alongside Lieutenant James Shelley.Right from the get-go, listeners are put into the elite armored squadron commanded by Shelley as they prepare to suit up in their mechanized uniforms, the squad connected via cerebral implants referred to as the overlay. Shelley and his team are in the African Sahel to maintain the peace as a secularist reformer rises to power. When their base comes under aerial assault, though, they realize — too late — that their peacekeeping efforts are for naught. Shelley, however, has a sort of sixth sense that has earned him the nickname King David from his comrades, who joke that he is able to receive the word of God. The truth, though, is a different story entirely and one that is both consistently captivating and increasingly frightening the more we learn about it.Over the course of more than thirteen hours of audio, we join Shelley for a series of missions and a harrowing period of recovery after being severely injured early in the narrative. What follows, then, is a search for the truth behind his King David messages and his team’s efforts to halts homegrown terrorists working to incite revolution and tear Texas away from the Union.The Red is a seriously dark bit of work, and more than a few scenes caught me off guard. Nagata’s first-person narrative manages to shock with sudden flashes of violence and terrific insights into the her characters. Shelley himself is a bit of conundrum – formerly an anti-war protester, he now serves the military to avoid jail time for past crimes, only to find himself increasingly loyal to the military and those who serve beneath him. The large question that looms is whether or not this is a natural growth for his character, or the result of whatever may be messing with his brain and repeatedly warning him of danger. How much of his decision and actions are truly his own? And how long can he rely on the King David insights to keep him and his soldiers safe?I refuse to give away much more than this, but please be aware that we’re only scratching the surface of the book’s plotting. There’s a great sense of breadth to the events here, and plenty of fantastic military action sequences. The upgrades these soldiers sport is really fantastic, and the augmentations provided by the military make sense in a beautifully cynical and bureaucratic way. Operating at the behest of mega-rich defense contractors, and beneath their constant and subtle warnings of reprisal if ignored, Nagata’s story brings to the forefront Dwight Eisenhower’s warning against the military-industrial complex and their threat to democracy. This aspect makes her story feel all the more timely rather than a far-flung future scenario.As narrator, Collins handles the material suitably well. Any criticisms I have toward his work here are very, very small, but I will say that it took me a little bit of time to adjust to his inflections and airy tones when narrating dialogue from the female characters. I also didn’t really care for his use of “spoken” shouts during some of the more-intense action scenes that requires characters to be yelling back and forth or attempting to command attention. I would have preferred to just have an actual shout with some pure energy and raw acting talent behind it. But again, these are rather mild complaints and did not take away from the overall listening experience. Throughout it all, the audio quality maintains a level consistency and solid production values, with the narration coming through crisp, clear, and well delivered.Bottom line: Linda Nagata just earned herself a new fan with this book! I loved it and am now eagerly anticipating the chance to either read or listen to the next two books in this trilogy.

  • Beth
    2019-02-14 03:35

    This is a story about near-future military conflict, and came to my attention mainly because it was nominated for a Nebula award for 2013, and the first self-published novel to have earned that honor.I'll say right away that Earth-based military SF is not my first reading choice, so I can't speak to the quality of the fight scenes. I thought each of them was unique and suspenseful, which was surprising since action sequences tend to bore me. There are real stakes, and real prices paid, in every battle in this book, which kept me interested and even emotionally involved."The Red" of the title doesn't come directly into the spotlight until a third of the way through the book, and I wouldn't want to spoil it. So, on to the next topic.First-person narrator James Shelley is an interesting character, and definitely an unreliable narrator. At times I wondered just what was keeping this man going, why he accepted so much, especially when it came to being injured and put back together. It was disconcerting at times, or even disturbing, to see the electronics in his body at work, suppressing what would be normal processes like horror, grief, or physical pain.The novel's a bit slow in the middle, but the beginning and end made the slower part well worth it. There's a lot of detail and a wide-ranging (and, thus far, unexplained) mystery going on, and an ending which made me anxious to read the next installment and see where Nagata was going to take Shelley next! Jaynie and Ransom, members of Shelley's armored squad, were neat characters. A lot of the rest of the team were last names and not much else, and I hope to learn more about them in the next novel/s.This is the third 2013 Nebula nominee I've read, and the third I've given four stars to. It was exciting and troubling, and gave me some things to think about. I'm glad I took this side trip from the kind of SF/F I typically read.

  • Gary
    2019-01-30 05:20

    The Red is a unique and exemplary MilSF novel, one that manages to live up to standard expectations (lots of explosions, military hardware, action movie bravado) while making some formal innovations and injecting subtlety and an undercurrent of pitch black humor to a subgenre that can often be aggressively obtuse and painfully earnest.The novel follows Lieutenant Shelley and his "linked combat squad" enforcing the will of the defense contractors who dictate world policy. Soon it becomes apparent that someone (or something) has accessed the link to Shelley's mind and is manipulating his actions. At first this entity, dubbed The Red, seems to have benevolent intentions, but as the stakes ratchet upward its agenda becomes increasingly unclear.Special props to the author for her compelling protagonist, whose struggles with free will and self-knowledge are compounded by the his awareness of how those things are being stripped away from him - often with his own consent. Also a big fan of the episodic structure of the novel mirroring the reality TV show the LCS is unwittingly participating in.Eagerly awaiting the arrival of part two, The Trials, in my Kindle queue (though it's dropping the same day as The Dark Forest AND The End of All Things, which will likely lead to my own struggles with free will).

  • MadProfessah
    2019-02-03 04:43

    Pretty intense military SF that raises interesting sociopolitical questions Very hard core military science fiction. Many many depictions of CQBs (close quarter battles), primarily from the perspective of Lieutenant James Shelley, a pretty young Everyman who finds himself the star of his own viral reality TV show whose topic is special forces incursions. I liked Shelley and the world building that includes a society dominated by defense contractors (DC) and the militarization of diplomacy. The incorporation of cutting edge human-computer interfaces was an interesting feature of the book. In the end, though, I was just exhausted by the sheer volume of the violence and the numerous deaths of prominent characters in the first book of this trilogy. If you like detailed descriptions of a bloody battles with gun fights and cyber-enhanced weapons, this series is right up your alley. Myself, I prefer my escapist fiction to be a lot less severe.

  • fromcouchtomoon
    2019-01-27 21:28

    A book that reads like a movie... and I didn't hate it. A rip-roaring good read from start to finish, with enough nuance to satisfy militarists and anti-militarists alike, enough SF winks to satisfy Starship and Forever War fans, and enough first-person unreliability to give the literary analysts a good chew. Though I would probably never go see the movie because it has all the hallmarks of an obnoxious blockbuster, I will cheer for Nagata if she ever gets that all-important movie deal. Pay attention SFers: this achieves what Scalzi could never do.

  • Melisa Ramonda
    2019-01-21 05:23

    The technical and technological aspect was everything I could hope from a Military SF novel, however the first person POV from the protagonist alone was a bit of a let down. Since he is narrator, there's so much he doesn't know and therefore a lot of things sound made up in the moment, with little to no build up. Events and plot-twists need relatable background to feel believable, some of these plot-twists felt dull and made up conveniently out of nowhere to fit the storyline mostly because of the lack of build up. Still, recommendable reading and I'm already halfway through the second novel.