LitStack Review: The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata

by Sharon Browning

book and novel reviewsThe Last Good Man
Linda Nagata
Mythic Island Press
Release Date:  June 20, 2017

Oh my, does Linda Nagata know how to write thrilling military science fiction, or what? (The answer is an unequivocal “yes.”)

Following her superlative The Red trilogy (The Red: First Light, The Trials, Going Dark), Ms. Nagata returns to military science fiction with the authority and clarity that we’ve come to expect from her. Yet this book, set not within a fighting force but a private military company headquartered in Washington state, allows for an even deeper empathy with the lead character than her earlier works; although technology plays an integral part of the story, affairs of the heart shine even brighter.

True Brighton, at age 49 and retired from active military service, brings plenty of experience to her role of Director of Operations for Requisite Operations Incorporated. She’s smart, seasoned, and able to see the big picture, whether that pertains to management of the cutting edge business or knowing how to handle a desperate father whose child has been kidnapped. She may not be the dynamic drive that pushes ReqOp forward, or one of the technical geniuses that keeps it a step ahead of their targets and their competition, but she is the glue that holds them all together; that one person that everyone looks up to in admiration rather than in awe.

But when a hostage rescue uncovers new intel that sheds light on the death of Tru’s eldest son Diego, who was killed by terrorists while serving in Iraq, she finds herself in unfamiliar territory – at odds with the status quo she had settled on in order to come to terms with her loss. As the fallout from a corollary bounty grab not only puts the ReqOp team in danger but also unmasks the knowledge that the circumstances of her son’s death were covered up by institutions – and people – that she had previously trusted, Tru finds herself determined to learn the truth, even if it means crossing lines she herself had drawn in the sand.

The story is compelling, but how it is told is sheer genius. While the setting of The Last Good Man is obviously in the near future, enough of it is grounded in our own reality so as to allow it to feel familiar;  a believable forecast of where modern life and technology is taking us (as alarming as it might be). The beginning of the novel is a bit of a jumble of names and equipment, but it lays the groundwork – not only in determining characters, but putting them in a time and place – which cements the action that comes later. The details are tight, and justifiable; as with the author’s Red trilogy, the technology, which is so integral to the plot, becomes as second nature to the reader as it is to those in the story who wield it.

But what truly shines in The Last Good Man are Ms. Nagata’s characters. They become real. And how brave is it to have the pivotal player in the book be an older woman, who acknowledges her impending limitations rather than railing against them? True still retains the discipline and training of her youth and subsequent career, but not in an uber leet way; she feels authentic and honest, even – especially – due to her age and experience. And it’s not just True – all of the characters in The Last Good Man, even the lesser ones, are rendered in far more gradient detail than one might expect of a book focused on fighting, intrigue and explosions.

But lest you be concerned, let me assure you that there is indeed plenty of fighting, intrigue and explosions in The Last Good Man. And suspense. And drama, and loyalty and camaraderie. And occasional whoop-ass. And heartbreak. And whole lotta gadgets and gizmos and fighting machines that will astound and amaze – and terrify.

In other words, The Last Good Man excels on so many different levels, there is simply no reason for you not to go out and experience it, regardless of your reading preferences. Honestly, it’s that good.

The Last Good Man releases in ebook format tomorrow, June 20, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major retailers. Get your copy now!

~ Sharon Browning

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