The Human Legion is still putting the pieces together following a crippling betrayal, but they’re fighting back. They’re working to take the continent while keeping a hold on their fragile, newly-formed union.
Character: I got frustrated with Lance’s arc in this. He’s still pretty much a badass, and it’s not so much the challenges he faced that bothered me; it was more the way he handled those challenges emotionally. Again, this book is great for readers who like fast-paced action, but there are too many characters in too few pages for me to keep straight. I have a few that I liked, but they didn’t get the air time I wanted. Honestly, these books always feel like they need to be another hundred thousand words or so to justify the number of points of view. It’s more of a lost opportunity than anything else, but it’s been my gripe on the series from book one.
Exposition: Three books in, I expected this to get better, and it did. I didn’t feel much in the way of info dumping. I think Handley improved his description and dialogue to reduce the amount of “telling” vs “showing.”
Worldbuilding: A race (one reason the number of characters hurt is that I can’t really recall this race exactly…they’re basically giant war rabbits…) gets center stage, and I appreciate when scifi has non-human characters take center stage. They were cool to watch. We get more insight. I think this was the best in the series in regard to this category.
Dialogue: There wasn’t exactly a lot of it when I think about it. What was there felt pretty decent. I thought it was average. I remember some of the back and forth best.
Description: Handley took another step forward in this. It wasn’t so much the amount, but the placement I noticed. I found the world more inviting because I could see what I needed to see when I needed to see it. It’s fun watching a new writer develop like that. Each book was better than the last.
Overall: While it didn’t have some of the arc I wanted from book two, it had what the others have. If you like scifi action at a fast pace, this book won’t disappoint. There’s more development here than in the first two, but readers will have to keep their eyes sharp to keep track of which character is where. Quick reads like this do help to break up the monotony and rest the eye from some of the thicker tomes I usually read. This had more action that the others (a huge plus). The fight scenes were particularly fun. If you like his work, you’ll like this book.
Spoiler Free Summary: No Marine Left Behind is a short story featuring Sashala Kraevoi. Author J.R. Handley gives us a deeper glimpse into one of the characters in the series. Sashala starts out leading a normal mission, but when one of her Marines ends up alone and surrounded by aliens and steeped in hopeless odds, Sashala charges to the rescue. Survival is mandatory. Escape is the goal.
Character: Sashala is a strong character (I mean that literally, she’s physically strong), which is nice. Having served with some amazing Marines (both man and woman), I like seeing a woman take the lead now and then. For a story this short, there wasn’t a lot of room for development, but you still get to see how determined she is. That determination is her best asset.
Exposition: I’ll admit Andrew get’s a little heavy handed here, but there’s a purpose to this. His wordplay is brilliant, but it can’t survive in dialogue alone. The humor of said word-play is more than fair compensation for the slightly higher-than-average exposition.
Worldbuilding: Based in the Human Legion world, the reader knows there’s more out there to learn, but I wasn’t overwhelmed with too much (a few terms I didn’t recognize here or there). This book was a thousand miles an hour, so there wasn’t much in the way of scope or setting. The reader saw what was essential to the plot, and nothing more.
Dialogue: I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve read this story. I think some of it felt a bit “too” Marine for my taste. What I mean by this is there wasn’t much beyond the orders and stereotypical banter. It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination; it just didn’t add a lot to the character.
Description: It didn’t bother me so much, especially with a story this short. There wasn’t a lot of description. This story is driven by action and pacing. Handley didn’t bog that down with overly descriptive blocks of information.
Overall: This was a fun “dinner” read. (No really, I read it during a meal.) It’s action packed and full of cool fight scenes and scifi visual moments. It had an 80s action movie feel to it that I liked.
Spolier Free Summary: The Legion Awakes is the first book in the Sleeping Legion saga by J.R. Handley. Sergeant Lance Scipio is pulled from cryo sleep to revive ancient combat tactics with a cadet squad. He needs to take a group of undisciplined cadets and turn them into space Marines while simultaneously proving the combat methods of his era are effective in a future where humanity serves the White Knights. When the training starts working, Lance’s unit has to prove themselves in a battlefield exercise designed to teach units how to deal with failure. His squad must prove that test wrong or risk being Culled.
Character: Lance is memorable, and he’s compelling to read about in an 1980’s action movie sort of way. What this book makes up for in pace and excitement, Handley gives up a bit in terms of character. It’s not that Lance isn’t cool; It’s not even that there aren’t other cool characters. The problem is characters get thrown at the reader very quickly, and readers don’t get a lot of time in their heads. Basil is probably my favorite character. He also has the most satisfying arc. I remember Wires because of the nickname, but that’s about it. That said, this felt like an informed decision on the part of J.R (who most of you know is a friend of mine). This area is probably the weakest of the book for that reason, but I repeat this is because Lance is so powerful and there are SO many other characters we don’t get a chance to learn about.
Exposition: Legion can get a little info dumpy in a few spots, but only in areas that require a steep learning curve, which science fiction readers probably come to expect. Even my favorite science fiction books have large segments of exposition that are simply a necessity for something as deep as this series. The good news is the pacing of this novel is unstoppable. Info dumpy or not, the pages fly by when you’re reading, and that’s due mostly to the action movie feel of the book.
Worldbuilding: So I understand that Sleeping Legion is a sub-set of the Human Legion saga. There’s a bit of a struggle (very small mind you). I think if you’re a fan of Human Legion, you’ll burn through this without issue, but there are some pieces of information that bring questions to those who haven’t read that universe. I equate it to people who watch something like Doctor Strange without seeing the other MCU movies. You don’t ACTUALLY need it to understand what’s going on, but it probably increases the enjoyability. If you’ve read both, I’d be curious to hear if you agree in the comments below. What I will say is the world building we need to understand is laid out for the reader in a plot relevant style.
Dialogue: It’s solid, though I wouldn’t be able to argue with those who say some characters sound alike. Lance steals the show for the most part. What the book lacks in voice, it makes up for in mannerisms that are indeed unique to the characters. As a military guy, what’s nice about the dialogue is the natural flow of the military conversations. This book does a great job of mixing up the odd manner service members have of mixing high intensity conversations with light hearted topics that break that tension. It’s realistic. If you’re a service member, you get it.
Description: Depending on who you are, this is either the strongest part of Handley’s game or the weakest. I’m not a fan of description, so the sparse details don’t bother me a bit. It allows the plot to surge forward at a breakneck pace. Again, I’m not actually a science fiction reader. High fantasy (probably my favorite genre) is very detail obsessive. So if you’re looking for schematic ready description, you’ll probably be disappointed. But you have the visuals you need to move along. Like I said, I’m honestly very interested to hear what fans of this genre have to say on the matter. For my money, I don’t actually care about the layout, specks of the weapons or things like that. I wouldn’t say no to a few more beats of description, but I honestly didn’t miss it.
Overall: Lance plus a relentless plot pace makes this a really enjoyable book. J.R. makes no excuses or apologies for what he writes, and I’m in agreement with him. This is plup fiction, action oriented storytelling. Any reader could zip through this book during a large meal and a tasty desert. (No, really! I totally read this in about a week, which in Matt’s reading time is about two days…maybe 5 hours of reading time. That’s LUDICROUS Speed at it’s finest). At the end of the day this is a pleasant, action-packed story that blends elements of 1980s action movies with science fiction themes.