Orphanage by Robert Buettner

40 years in the future and the alien menace, the slugs, are killing humanity one shot at a time. Launching asteroids from their bases on Ganymede they are wiping out anything in their way, not to destroy the planet but to clear it of humans so they can move in and make it their own. With the population of Earth doing all they can to continue surviving amidst the devastation, a troubled youth, Jason Wander, finds himself signed up to the army.
orphanageRobertRWith training relying on old equipment and methods that were established during the wars of the 20th century the army is woefully under prepared. Relegated to helping the survivors after the impacts they have little to look forward to, at least until a mission to Ganymede is announced and humanity can look to the day when they can fight back.

As Wander begins his training he finds himself causing unintentional trouble for his squad during exercises, making him far from the most popular recruit. With deployment coming through he finds himself more involved in the world changing events than he bargained for, leading up to the mission to Ganymede. But not all volunteers are accepted for this mission, only those that have lost everything – the orphans – are chosen. And so rests the fate of humanity.

I’ll start off by saying what will become very obvious when you start reading Orphanage – it is very reminiscent of Starship Troopers in the general storyline – Robert Buettner himself says on his site that Orphanage is a literary homage to both Heinlein and Haldeman. It is because of this comparison that I can’t but help to make is both good and bad. The familiarity makes Orphanage feel like a book that I’ve read and enjoyed before and one that I’ve returned to with a good feeling. On the downside, the feeling of sameness made me question the abilities of the author to come up with something original. Luckily though, despite my initial hesitation, Orphanage turned out to be a great read!

The basic premise of the story means that we get a close look at our main character, Jason Wander, and as it is told through the first person we get inside his head and see his motivations and feel his fears. This is what really worked in Orphanage – Jason Wander. He is a character that is very identifiable, coming from a humble background and not the instant hero that is shown in many stories these days. I enjoyed reading through Wander’s eyes and the emotion, perspective and humour that Buettner injects into the character and story are all pitched just right. All other characters also fit in nicely adding to the sense of camaraderie that is expected for a story that has such a strong military aspect.

The science behind the story, while giving the plot everything it needs to move forward nicely, doesn’t have too much depth or explanation. This isn’t a bad thing at all, sometimes a book needs to take this approach to ensure that story is enjoyed without being sidetracked by world building. The main reason it works so well is because this is a story told in the first person, and if Wander had started spewing all the technological details of every piece of equipment he used it would soon become unbelievable and frustrating. For what Orphanage is – a well constructed, action packed story – Buettner has aimed it just right.

All in all Orphanage is a nice, easy read, giving plenty to keep the pages turning and an enjoyable story. I’ll be picking up the rest of this series as soon as I can – there is a whole lot of promise here!

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