Darn good mech action! That pretty well sums up how I feel about Mecha Corps by Brett Patton. I read a Gundam series awhile back, and the Robotech novels, and Starship Troopers, and Armor: all those had powered armor or mecha of one or another. Other science fiction I've read has had powered armor. They've all been good, but Mecha Corps just freakin' kills it! This book, apparently the start of series called the Armor Wars, is what all mecha fiction should be like.
It starts out much like other military fiction: Matt Lowell is on his way to boot camp to start his life as a mech pilot. One of the other cadets on his team is quite the jerk, trying to prove he's better than everyone, and I was surprised by his fate. I figured this guy would either last longer to be an antagonist, or once he died, I expected him to come back as a ghost in the machine. Neither happened. It's sometimes nice when a book surprises you and doesn't give you everything you expect to happen.
At Mecha Training Camp, Matt learns of a new type of Mecha much more powerful than anything that has existed before. He also learns of the impending war with the leader of a group of genetically engineered humans thought eradicated in a previous war. Matt's past comes back to haunt him as his training is accelerated and his experience with the mecha grows - all leading to an exciting final battle with the new mecha in action.
One thing that I found different about the mecha here, is what I assume is the use of nanotechnology. It's never blatantly said that the mech armor is based on nanotech - it's called biotechnology, but the abilities of the powered armor to do very unique things seems to stem from a use of nanotechnology.
The blurb mentions that every time the pilots plug-in to their mecha, it messes with their mind. That plot point isn't front and center, but it does play a part - mostly for Matt who thrives on the addiction of piloting Mecha. Seasoned pilots warn the cadets about burning out and being relegated to a support role and no longer being able to pilot. Matt seems sees his options as live fast and and burnout all the way, or find a way to use the addiction to make him a better pilot.
Matt also meets a girl and falls for her, but he's more interested in piloting mech than building a relationship. Every hero needs a love interest, and every love story seems to need some angst to keep it interesting. While the human relationships within this story take a backseat to the awesome war machines, those relationships still drive the story. Matt's growing relationships with his teammates informs his decisions and his own growth, even though he puts himself and his piloting skills, his addiction to the machines, above those relationships.
This book seems to have it all: cool power armor with some wild abilities, warring space empires, huge space ships, space stations located in crazy locations, and an intriguing back-story that begs for more explanation in future books.
This is a series I'm thrilled to find and can't wait for the next one!
Mecha Corps, by Brett Patton, was provided to me by the publisher for review.