Field of Heroes by Craig Robert Saunders
Publisher: Severed Press | Release Date: | Pages:
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After Earth is decimated in an alien attack, humanity’s remnants are left to fight for survival in Craig Robert Saunders’s Field of Heroes.
Told through several shifting viewpoints, including the first-person narrative of Vidar Dawes, Saunders gives us the lowdown on the street-level grunts, admirals, and scientists working to prevent the extinction of mankind. Field of Heroes is a grimy, gritty, violent war novel with a strong science fiction bend that reads like the star-crossed love child of All Quiet on the Western Front and Independence Day, with a splash of kaiju versus robot action for good measure. Saunders takes us from one battle site to the next as Americas Unity forces live and fight and die across the wide theater, hoping to stem the infiltration of Cephal and Zoan forces.
The aliens are so-named by Earth’s scientists thanks to their similarity to earlier stages of life’s evolutionary development in the ocean, and both land and sea are soon overrun by massive, monstrous protozoan and squid-like looking creatures augmented with cybernetics and incredibly destructive weaponry. During one early confrontation, a soldier has a hard time comprehending what, exactly, he is seeing and stammers, “Is that…a dinosaur? Armed with missiles?”
While the action is vivid and suitably chaotic, Field of Heroes presents some really strong characters to root for, primarily Dawes who experiences some tremendous growth as he forced into the life of a soldier. He has no memory of his past after being caught in an explosion at the start of the invasion and only knows his name thanks to the wallet that survived with him. He recalls being with a woman on the hood of his Bronco, but little else. When we first meet Dawes, we known him as a naive, selfish, an inept man. He’s drafted into a ruined military simply by virtue of stumbling across a patrol and doesn’t know what to do with the gun he’s given and often loses his weapon simply because he forgets to pick it up. He’s not a man accustomed to firearms or war, and yet he’s been reborn into a life of perpetual warfare. Soon, all he knows is war and he finds himself promoted simply because so many others have died. Over the course of the book, he goes from a guileless amnesiac to a battle-hardened soldier, and it’s a compelling journey in its own right.
It is not, however, a journey of adventure and derring-do. While there is a fair share of bravery throughout Field of Heroes, it’s primarily a journey built off revenge and survival. Humanity is violently forced into a defensive posture and it’s an uphill climb for the remnants of Americas Unity to take the offensive against the enormous creatures that have forcibly claimed Earth. The discovery of alien life, the systematic ruination of Earth, and the death of billions and billions of people have called into the question the supremacy of God. The soldiers fight in the name of Lord Death instead, adopting a Viking-like mindset as each new combat theater could be their final march on the way to Valhalla.
Saunders gives us a stark accounting of life in the trenches and on the front-lines of a world under siege, and he doesn’t spend a lot of time glamorizing and romanticizing war. It’s dark stuff, but not without its share of thrills. The final battle opens up some interesting questions about the next steps in mankind’s future, and one can’t help but question how a generation destroyed by war will live on and what shape their world will take in the years that follow.