In short … I couldn’t put it down.
If that’s all you need to know, then go ahead and buy it now. But, if not …
“Tin Men” represents Christopher Golden’s first foray 1 (to my knowledge) into the genre of a futuristic military thriller, and provides a solid, action-driven plot that explores a possible future for modern ground warfare through the eyes of a wide range of characters in multiple settings.
Taking place in the not-so-distant future, soldiers in America’s Remote Infantry Corps link their minds directly to super-soldier robot counterparts and carry out missions across the world. Operating without the fear of death, these “drone pilots” prove to be more than a match for essentially all terrorist and insurgent enemies.
And the Remote Infantry has no shortage of foes. This is a world declining into chaos through a combination of political, social, and environmental factors. Radical activist and terror networks use both technology and increasing broad public resentment against U.S. forces to fuel an ambiguous but violent insurgency. When the world suffers a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that knocks the entire planet’s infrastructure back to the 18th century, members of the Remote Infantry Corps come to some sobering realizations about themselves, their world, and both the government and technology in which they placed their trust.
“Tin Men” focuses on a squad of soldiers (and specifically PFC Denny Kelso and Corporal Kate Wade) battling increasingly impossible odds as they attempt travel from Pakistan to their home base in Germany. In addition to challenges within their own ranks, Kelso and Wade match both wits and firepower against violent fanatics who pursue them with a new bot-killing weapon. 2
The marketing blurb from publisher Ballantine Books links Golden’s “Tin Men” to the writing of Brad Thor (specifically, “Brad Thor meets Avatar…”). This is misleading. My opinion is that Golden is a vastly better writer than Thor. I’ll also note that Thor’s very conservative politics play a prominent, heavy-handed role in his novels. In contrast, Golden spends less time politically soapboxing his fiction, and when he does it’s more subtle and nuanced.
Crunch is always hungry. Massive, ruthless, and homeless, he struggles to survive while building a hatred for all around him. He preys on the street’s weakest, while everyone else lies beyond his aimless rage. Until one day he finds a way to punish anyone and everyone. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the way found him … and he has perhaps bitten off more than even he can chew.
“Tin Men” has a few blemishes mixed in with its many strengths. For readers seeking a hard-science techno-thriller, you’ll be disappointed. Most of the tech in “Tin Men” falls into that Star Trek oeuvre of stuff that works … well … just because it does. There are also instances where, if you take a breath during the non-stop action, you may pause long enough to ask “Wait. If they can do X, then why don’t they just do Y to prevent Z badness from happening?” Also, there’s something of a love story that feels spackled in, as they often do in action-thriller novels.
Then again, I may not be much of a romantic. That’s on me.
Whether or not these minor flaws prevent you from enjoying the novel depends on your ability to set aside a few foibles in the interest of reading a fun, fast-paced novel. I had no problem with any of it and enthusiastically recommend “Tin Men”.
That said, in the interest of public disclosure, I’ll put it out there that I know Chris Golden personally. But, if it makes any difference, he doesn’t know me at all.
Yes. It’s an inside joke… sorry.
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- Golden is extremely prolific and moves around a lot within the broad commercial umbrella of dark fiction and horror. Late last year, he released “Snowblind,” a more conventional and character-driven ghost story (also quite good). And, in November 2015, he and Mike Mignola (“Hellboy” artist and writer) will return to the world of Joe Golem (occult detective) through a five-issue comic book run from Dark Horse. He also co-hosts the “Three Guys with Beards” speculative fiction podcast along with Jonathan Maberry and James A. Moore. ↩
- If all of this sounds like a fantastic premise for a movie, then you should know that Warner Brothers grabbed the screen rights when the novel was still in the proposal phase. ↩