Recent Reading: A complete contrast

So, you know what one of my very least-favorite character types is? I’ll tell you: It’s the impulsive, emotional woman who must be rescued from her emotional impulsivity by the men in her life, who are all, for some inexplicable reason, in love with her. Frankly, I find the histrionic type utterly unappealing. As far as I’m concerned, any adult human being ought to be able to COPE. That’s part of, you know, being an adult. So for me, neither the histrionic female protagonist nor the men who think she’s so wonderful are believable or sympathetic.

I know perfectly well that there are plenty of characters of this type around, mostly (as far as I know) written by female authors, mostly (I think) in paranormals and other forms of romance. (I may be wrong about this; is there another genre where this is common?)

So obviously a lot of readers find emotional, overwrought, impulsive female protagonists appealing. But I just don’t. I’m an INTJ myself, which may explain why the histrionic type of character seems both unbelievable and unappealing to me. I don’t know, maybe I’m getting too analytical, never mind.

Plus, granted, Vicki in Tanya Huff’s BLOOD PACT isn’t that bad, if only because she has more reason to flip out than some other childishly impulsive characters I could mention. I mean, her mother has died, and Vicki lacks any sense of closure in that relationship, so that’s tough. Especially when her mother’s body is stolen. Plus, and this is not really a spoiler because it’s obvious from the start that the story is headed this way, her mother is then zombified by the bad guys. You’ve gotta agree, that would be pretty disturbing.

Nevertheless, I just do not like a protagonist who loses her shit and cannot cope. Add to that a love triangle – God, spare me from love triangles – and, worse, a love triangle that is resolved by removing free choice from the woman through a deus ex plot device – and then add to that a bunch of Impersonal Evil Scientists, which is a trope that is always going to make me roll my eyes at best; and, well. I only barely bothered to finish this book.

It was quite a disappointment, after Huff’s amazingly good military SF Valor series, is what I’m saying. Naturally your mileage may differ if you love UF/Paranormal and hate military SF.

Okay, so after that, I went straight to my Kindle and read a military SF novel that I had waiting there: the self-published TERMS OF ENLISTMENT by a guy named Marko Kloos. Which, incidentally, has now been picked up by a publisher and is due out any time in paper as well as e-format. I found this out because the story was good enough to make me look for a sequel, particularly because it ends on rather a cliffhanger. (I checked, and there will be a sequel shortly, so that’s okay.)

By “good enough,” I mean that TERMS OF ENLISTMENT is engaging, well-written, fast-paced, and adequately plotted. If you read it, I expect it will remind you very strongly of some Heinlein, especially SPACE CADET and STARSHIP TROOPERS. The dialogue is not as snappy as you get in Heinlein, but then the political preachiness is not (quite) so apparent either. Kloos writes a first-person present-tense narrative, which is inherently difficult, but he pulls it off very well.

Also probably Kloos’ book will remind you of David Feintuch’s MIDSHIPMAN’S HOPE, but with far less angst and a significantly less cohesive plot. (I was really impressed with Feintuch’s plotting in his first book, so that’s a high bar.) Kloos’ story is just as episodic as Feintuch’s, but the episodes are not tied together the way Feintuch managed to tie his up. On the other hand . . . less angst. That got pretty tiresome in Feintuch’s sequels. There was nothing like that in Kloos’ story.

To be sure, the flip side of “less angst” is sometimes less character depth and development; Kloos’ Andrew Grayson is FAR less complicated a character than Feintuch’s Nick Seafort. But sometimes a less complicated character can be just what you’re in the mood for. After I barely finished BLOOD PACT? I was pretty well glued to the page for TERMS OF ENLISTMENT.

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