The Last Good Man

Image of The Last Good Man
Release Date: 
June 20, 2017
Mythic Island Press
Reviewed by: 

Nagata is rapidly assuming her place among the greats of military science fiction . . .”

What would happen if two private military contractors, today’s reincarnated mercenary forces, went to war with each other? And how would that war be waged in an era of unmanned vehicles, artificial intelligence, and other new technologies?

These are the questions that author Linda Nagata wrestles with in this new military fiction novel, following up on her critically acclaimed Red trilogy. Introducing a complex set of new characters, this novel asks a fundamental question- As warfare is rapidly changing in directions that not even today’s militaries can fathom, how will the human element factor into future conflict?

Good military scifi seeks to offer visions for these issues and this novel does so without losing the human element of conflict and the all too human cost of warfare, even warfare waged primarily by machines.

Good science fiction has to weave futuristic technology seamlessly into the story without overwhelming the reader. Moreover, for hard science fiction, particularly military science fiction, the intended audience can be very astute and finicky about getting the technology right and keeping it plausible while maintaining the usual requirements of character development, plot pacing, and the twists and turns that a good novel contains.

Nagata succeeds in all of these factors, expertly interleaving military action, science fiction, mystery, and humanity in this book that keeps the reader guessing and turning pages to the very end. Her extrapolation of technology already in development by military research and development organizations is really remarkable and very well done.

No plot spoilers here, but rest assured from the first few chapters, the author keeps the suspense constant and the characters complex and believable. The internal and external conflict of each of the main players is amplified as, no big surprise, they ponder their place as warriors on a future battlefield where drones and software replace flesh and blood.

And of course the author, as good scifi authors will, leaves the reader pondering larger questions: What will warfare be like if fought mostly by remote control?  Will conflicts be easier to start and more likely? And will humans have any role at all other than as remote operators and software engineers?

This is what good military scifi is all about: providing an entertaining vehicle to ask large questions such as, How does humanity deal with their potential military obsolescence at the hands of technology? Will there ever be a bloodless war?

Readers who enjoyed Ian Douglas, David Weber, or David Drake will thoroughly enjoy this book. Nagata is rapidly assuming her place among the greats of military science fiction.