“Operation Shield” continues straight on from where “23 Years On Fire” finished, which is probably the only problem I have with what was otherwise a very enjoyable read: the first hundred or so pages of “Operation Shield” felt more like the (slightly anti-climatic conclusion to “23 Years On Fire” than the start of a new novel.
The GI rebellion on the former League world, Pantala, has stalled. Surrounded by superior ground forces held at bay only by the threat of bomabardment from orbit, the GIs start to question Sandy’s leadership and she begins to understand how few options they have.
Meanwhile, the brothers and sister that Sandy has been trying to protect, Danya, Svetlana and Kiril, are doing their best to survive and reconnect with her.
This is well written, exciting, stuff that shows Sandy as something more than an indestructible killer android. The difficulty that I had was that Sandy’s withdrawal from this situation was so abrupt that I checked whether I’d missed a few pages.
The main themes of “Operation Shield” really kick in when Sandy returns to Cally with the three kids and finds that the Callian way of life and the life she has built for herself are under threat from off-world Federal forces. We get the opportunity to see Sandy coping with being responsible for children, albeit resourceful and sometimes dangerous children while still being at the centre of political intrigue and military action.
I’m filled with admiration for Joel Shepherd’s ability to make power politics and military action real and compelling without accepting either of them as a goal or a solution. He brings to life the posturing, manipulation and betrayal that accompany political ambition and the destruction and loss of life and possible futures that military action inflicts. Sandy is talented and ruthless enough to deal with politics and war but what motivates her is the desire for a peaceful life where she and those she loves can surf together and have a barbecue at the beach afterwards. It’s an extremely human desire for an android to have.
Over the course of the first five books in the series, Sandy has grown into someone very interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing what she will become in the final book of the series, “Originator”.