By Christopher Golden
In the near future, the world is falling apart. Wars, unrest, economic collapse and ecological disasters plague the globe - as it tries to hold the pieces together, the USA deploys a new weapon, the Tin Men. They are remote controlled drones piloted by American soldiers who have their minds virtually transported into the machines while their bodies rest back at base. At least that’s the theory, but when an electromagnetic pulse traps their minds inside their robot bodies all the rules go out the window.
Tin Men is a great blend of military action and sci-fi elements, it barrels through an action packed storyline in a hail of bullets, while still managing to showcase some very human feelings despite its characters’ robotic appearance. There is an incredible realism to the scenes and locations that would fit perfectly into a piece of contemporary military fiction. The action scenes with the Tin Men are particularly well written, serving to evoke the proper atmosphere for a warzone. The entire book in fact does a good job for atmosphere, with the opening of the novel heralding a great catastrophe, the subsequent chapters do a good job of showing the consequences, worthy of any disaster movie.
The story jumps between a selection of very different characters, each showing the effects of the catastrophe from a new perspective. In the Tin are Danny and Kate, two soldiers with very different views about their new situation, the awkward relationship between the two is handled well and makes for an interesting sideshow as the story goes on. With a more human face is Alexa, an ambassador’s young daughter carried along for the ride and forced to come to terms with the harsh realities of her situation. Back at base is the tech Aimee, while she’s not dodging bullets there are plenty of problems to keep her occupied. Rounding out the group is Felix, acting as an aide to the president he is swept along in a rush to escape the chaos while half the world tries to track them down. There is also the interesting P.O.V of Hanif who provides a counterpoint to the western characters, showing a different ideology and helping to give the enemy side a face.
There are plenty of twists in the plot, giving it more depth than your standard action thriller, the fast pace of the writing quickly moves the story along as you begin to care about the characters. In places the development of some of the protagonists felt a bit rushed but the book does cram a lot into the space. There are touches in the world that highlight the near future setting, but I think more could have been made of the Tin Men in the narratives. Aside from a throwaway line about targeting systems or repairs there’s very little that differentiates the Tin Men from regular soldiers, other than the amount of punishment they can take.
The book does deliver a good read, the separate plot strands all progress well and tie in together nicely. The characters quickly establish themselves but do lack detailed development. Tin Men does keep the reader interested, revealing just enough to leave you wanting more and rooting for their armoured heroes. I would recommend it to a military or sci-fi fiction buff.
Written on 4th September 2015 by Aaron Miles.