Jean Johnson’s A Soldier’s Duty, the first installment in her new science fiction series Theirs Not to Reason Why, is a pretty good book. From the standpoint of a sci-fi enthusiast it brings a lot of the critical elements together, such as extreme technology, alien races, and a space-faring society. In addition, Johnson creates a military backdrop that feels realistic. The result is a better than average novel.
Ia, the main character, is a psychically gifted woman from a heavy-gravity world. Her gift (or curse), the ability to see the future and to know what she has to do to achieve certain ends, is a potent tool. Johnson has created a strong female superhero and gives us reasonable explanations for how it all works. Ia’s physical strength and incredible endurance come from being born and growing up on a world where the gravity is livable, but so heavy that there are marked physiological advantages when she moves to Earth’s lower gravity. Also, her psychic abilities — and she has lots of them — are derived from the interactions of an alien race with her planet. So, this didn’t just happen, but was a result of a series of logical events.
The entire human race, and civilization as it exists, is under a huge threat. When she was young, Ia had visions of the future that shock her and turn her into a singly focused, ridiculously dedicated avatar. In order to be the perfect and only solution, Ia begins planning, training and living for that single role. (It’s kind of hard to believe, really, because of the constant pressure she would live under for so long.)
A Soldier’s Duty chronicles Ia’s enlistment into the future version of the Marines. Johnson does a good job of carrying over the tradition, esprit de corps and mindset that the modern US Marine Corps embodies. There are moments of levity and instances of detailed exposition, but mostly we are watching a prophet of the future working to achieve the result that she has foreseen as the only way to save society.
On the whole, I enjoyed A Soldier’s Duty as a sci-fi novel. I didn’t like Ia; she was kind of boring because she never let up and only rarely felt sorry for herself. There were other characters in the novel who were more interesting and will hopefully be given more attention in future additions to Theirs Not to Reason Why. I’ve added this series to my list of books to read in the future, but it will probably not be at the top of the list.