W. C. Bauers
Unbreakable Cover



Every once in a while I'll get this hankering for some military sci-fi, soUnbreakable couldn't have come along at a better time. Teasing the prospect of large scale ship-to-ship battles and space marines in mech suits, W.C. Bauers' debut also features a kick-ass female lead who'll prove to be the bane of space pirates and the Republic's enemies everywhere.

Meet Promise T. Paen (yep, that's her real name), the novel's protagonist who hails from an outer rim colonial planet called Montana caught between the Republic of Aligned Worlds and the Lusitanian Empire. Montana is also a hotbed for pirates, and when Promise witnesses her father killed in a raid, the young orphan decides to enlist in the RAW Marine Corps and leave her old life behind forever.

Promise is happy enough killing lots and lots of pirates in the RAW-MC, but when Montana's capital and spaceport comes under attack by the marauders, she finds herself ordered back home to head up the counterstrike. After neutralizing the threat, Promise is promoted and, to her chagrin, showered with accolades and labeled a local hero by Montana's vivacious president Anne Buckmeister. However, quietly watching behind the scenes are the Lusitanians, who decide to take advantage of the weakened Marine forces to launch their own attack to seize the planet.

Happily, despite being filled to the brim with plenty of detailed and sometimes very graphic battle scenes, Unbreakable isn't all just violent action and no substance. There's depth to Bauer's world and characters, achieved through occasional breathers in the narrative. Some of these little breaks ended up being lulls in the story that I had to struggle to push through, but for the most part there are far more ups than downs.

Sci-fi tech and weapon enthusiasts for one will no doubt geek out over descriptions of the RAW-MC's impressive arsenal. Some of these sections can be lengthy, and yet I didn't see them as overly obtrusive. The ins-and-outs of pulse guns and armor suits are as much a part of Promise's life as everything else, not to mention it's the little details like that which serve to bring a level of authenticity to this futuristic version of the Corps. There's also room for levity in the form of social gatherings with Montana's colonists, outlining the quirks of this backwater planet's culture. And on the other side of the coin, there are the quiet and heart-wrenching moments of grief as Promise and her company honor their fallen. I honestly thought I'd be getting nothing but gung-ho soldiers and their nifty military toys, but there's actually a lot more feeling here than I was expecting.

When it comes to characters we don't get too much insight into anyone else in the story, but that's because Promise takes center stage and she's also the most developed. I wasn't initially all that impressed by her, but what eventually won me over was the fantastic dialogue, which ended up being my favorite aspect ofUnbreakable. I learned a lot about Promise and those around her -- especially her comrades and President Buckmeister -- through their passionate and snappy conversations.

Perhaps the only major criticism I have is the matter pertaining to the main character's mother, who now and then appears in front of Promise as a specter that only she can see, or speaks to her as a voice in her head. Whether Sandra Paen is a true ghost or just a hallucination of her daughter's, that's never really explained or made clear. The publisher's description in the novel's synopsis of Promise being "persistently haunted" makes this particular plot point sound more mysterious and significant than it really is, and I'm a little disappointed that it wasn't explored further.

Still, Unbreakable was a book that intrigued and entertained me. All told, I believe this is a rousing military sci-fi debut that will make fans of the genre quite happy.