Matthew Johnson. Rules of Engagement. (Asimovs April/May 2014)

asimovs140405Near-future military SF, not a type of SF that generally appeals to me.

Johnson looks at the potential for soldiers to have implants that control their actions, preventing inappropriate aggressive actions whilst in combat (and presumably good for Canadian Mayors, members of NYPD and others then…)

There’s an interesting structure to a story that looks at potential flaws with the implants with three soldiers, a team just back from military service. One is the narrative of their final action, in which we see all the hi-tech at their personal disposal in action (a treat no doubt for people who like their military hardware descriptions). Interspersed with this is a coolly detached perspective from someone who is studying reasons behind exactly what happened, and why, once they returned home.

As such the story doesn’t get too much into the heads of the three soldiers. True dat their backgrounds are described, but one of the three who halfway through the story steps back from the precipice, appears in the final sentence, well and truly precipitating action, with no explanation (other than implant malfunction) to explain that.

Perhaps a bit picky, but having watched the interspersed narrative of the HBO ‘True Detective’ – that’s a standard I’m looking out for.

More about this issue of Asimovs here.

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