This is an interesting review to write. It’s very long coming (since I finished it probably months ago now), and it’s not a style of book I’ve read often, but it’s M.C.A. Hogarth, and…well, if you’ve been around long enough, you know my opinion on her. (If you haven’t, it’s that I’ll read anything Micah puts out, probably more than once and then buy eighteen copies of all her books to toss at my friends.) But on top of my love for this author, Spots the Space Marine got Micah a decent amount of press when Games Workshop decided they were going to take umbrage with the term “space marine” in regards to their copyright. So when Space Marine Liberation Day (our celebration for the vanquishing of our foes) came around, I bought the book. A worthy cause, I thought.
I had no idea what I was in for.
It’s telling when I only have one little note tagged into my Nook bookmarks list. I like to notate things to an extreme, especially with this author. I know she enjoys my little squees of enjoyment, or my garbled ravings when I’m unhappy/anxious/etc about an event or upcoming scene. So to render me so engaged that I don’t even note… Well, I’m wishing I wrote this closer to when I read the book, but enough sticks with me that I’ll do it justice.
We follow Magda Guitart for the vast majority of the book–the character we’d come to know as Spots. Each of the Marines use their call-signs as names, even outside of the field, so more often than not, I can’t even remember their proper names. (I had to go back to the front of the book to remember Spots’ name.) Her partner-in-crime as the book progresses is Travis, better known as Claws. They’re two of the leading members of Team Kitty, the group of Marines we follow throughout the book. And just when we’re just meeting all the Marines, Hogarth tosses in the most enigmatic and complex character the book has: the Fiddler of the title. Though he’s technically known as a Violinist, the world has taken to calling them Fiddlers, much in a way that makes it just a little more casual (I think) since most humans aren’t quite sure of how to handle the Violinists. Given that I’m not sure how I personally would take seeing an alien that looked like a nine-foot-tall preying mantis…I can’t say as I blame them. But Spots takes an instant liking to Samuel-Colt, their resident Violinist…and the plot proceeds from there.
There’s a war on with a group of aliens the humans call “crabs,” and they’ve all started acting strange–and it’s largely up to Samuel-Colt and Spots to figure out what that is, and then convince the rest of the human-run base to believe the word of the Fiddler. While I won’t spoil how it ends, I will admit that there are a good three to five times when I was clutching my Nook and sobbing, watching the page count at the bottom of my screen, to make sure that there was enough time to make everything right again.
The book is written in play format, which takes a bit of getting used to, and (no doubt in line with Spots’ sensibilities) all of the profanities has been ****ed out. It takes a clever mind to try and guess what the characters are saying behind those asterisks. (Something the author herself will admit she’s not even sure anymore!) The characters are dynamic and surprising; there is just enough pseudo-romantic/sexual tension between Spots and Claws to make it interesting but never pushing the line of Spots’ marriage and family back home, and the forming relationship between the Marines and Samuel-Colt is absolutely fascinating. To be honest, I’d read an entire book just about the Violinists and their world, just to get more of the concepts. Samuel-Colt changes and evolves so much over the course of the book, and it is absolutely masterful the way Hogarth writes it.
Overall, it is well worth the investment if you haven’t read it already, and don’t be daunted by the page count at the bottom. With only a few lines per page, you’re flipping more than enough to make that number go by all too quickly. For those of you looking for a realistic look at what a war can do and want a few more of your beloved characters to survive than in A Song of Ice and Fire, then this is absolutely something to look into.
Overall Rating: ***** (Must Have)