Once again, I’m helping best selling author RR Haywood judge the semi-annual writing contest he conducts in his closed The Living Army or TLA Facebook group. The group, made up of a couple thousand mostly British, American and Australian fans of his Undead zombie horror series, has lately become populated with fans of his new best selling time travel series, Extracted.
His Undead series, which now numbers 26 books, each of them best sellers on their own, is the kind of series with which fans become obsessed and inevitably find themselves looking for like-minded readers. It’s that search for connection with others who share obsessions which spawned the TLA group, many of whom have read the entire series a number of times, have listened to them in audiobook and spend days and days arguing over who should be in the dream casts for hopeful TV and movie adaptations. (Hint, hint, movie and TV producers. This series is screaming for TV time.) I reviewed one of the books in the series here. Continue reading
Too often, authors create one dimensional super-killers in uniform who cold-heartedly carry out his or her duty like a robot. The character perpetuates the myth that the military is filled with people who mindlessly do what they’re told regardless of right or wrong. Orders are orders, in these worlds and service members shouldn’t think for themselves.
I’m convinced authors regurgitate the TV and movie style combatant because the number of people who know and understand real military life is minuscule compared to those who haven’t served. People simply make it up, call it creative license and do whatever they think makes for the best plot.
Often times, these are the books I want to throw across the room.
On the other hand, there are some who go the extra mile, do some research and present accurate portrayals of military members and veterans. They work at getting at the truth of what goes through the mind and soul of people trained to go to battle, why they do it, what their motivation might be, and how what soldiers do impacts them before, during and after their service.
Nicholas Sansbury Smith, while never having served in uniform, masterfully draws three dimensional characters in uniform in all of his books. Many readers are familiar with the soldiers in his bestselling Extinction Cycle series which features Delta Force teams up against a deadly threat and a world in collapse. Through the multiple books in this series, we watch a team of men who had fought side by side for years in hot spots around the world. They weren’t best friends. They didn’t all hang out together, but they knew each other professionally and, like most people who go into danger with weapons in their hands, their connections are visceral and organic. When they lose half their team in one encounter with a kind of threat they’d never seen before, it rips them apart. They drive on, they continue to function and Smith shows us what it takes to continue your mission even though you’re torn up inside.