Book Review: Big Red by Damien Larkin
We’re into Self-Published Fantasy Month now, which got me in the mind to look into the lesser-known books on my TBR. So I started with Big Red by Damien Larkin, which I was lucky enough to win a copy of an awfully long time ago, and yeah about halfway through I realised it was actually published by an indie-press (Dancing Lemur) and it’s sci-fi not fantasy, so it’s really got nothing to do with SPFM. But it’s “Reluctant Hero” today and this fits that, sort of, and frankly a review of anything is a triumph for me right now having read like a hundred books this year and not reviewed anything.
But enough about me.
Big Red is a lot of fun. It’s got an old-school charm which I think is immediately apparent from that cover; this is the sort of no-nonsense military space story you used to get way back when, and to be honest when I (finally) picked it up I was very there for that. I’d been through a patch of literary, dark or otherwise complicated books (read: trying too hard to be different) and sometimes you just want to see a bunch of happy-go-lucky nobodies romping about fighting space aliens.
In a nutshell, this is like Starship Troopers with a Matrix-esque twist to it. It gets more complex, but to say much more than that would venture into spoilers, and honestly what more do you need to know? It’s a book that knows what it is and does it well – it’s tightly written, paced well, well edited and has enough little twists to keep things fresh.
With a book like this, retreading timeless military training and gruntwork stories, it’s the recruit we follow that makes a difference, and Larkin’s cheery, likeable voice comes through well here. There humour and lightness, and just the right balance of naivete and self-awareness for it all to work. This is also where I felt the book slightly fell down in later parts, however, as there was less room for character to shine through once the action ramped up. But that was probably inevitable. Overall it’s a wild, fun ride through the Mars battleground!
Check it out here.