[alert variation=”alert-info”]Publisher: Solaris Books
Formats: Paperback, Mass Market Paperback, eBook, Kindle
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | iBooks[/alert]

Grunt Life by Weston Ochse is a thoroughly absorbing book that follows military grunt Benjamin Mason through the first days of the alien invasion. Recruited by a special task force when he was at his lowest and facing suicide, Mason finds himself back in basic, and readying to take on the biggest threat the world has ever encountered.

This author takes an unlikely event (alien invasion) and a difficult subject (depression and suicide) and pulls off writing about both without ever coming across as inauthentic or overly sentimental. The language always remains true to the story and the characters, maintaining a precise and effective voice that pulls the reader in and holds them all the way through the novel. In short, Grunt Life is an absolutely delightful read.

“I’d been so willing to die for nothing, that to die for something now meant everything.”

With the popularity of apocalyptic fiction, this book stands out for its authentic, skillfully executed narrative and gritty realism. The author never falls into the traps of generalizations or vagaries, common in many apocalypse books. The characters are painted with brief, spare strokes that make them pop on the page, and they display a wide range of raw, real emotions that stay true to the lives of soldiers. Ochse keeps his language crisp and concise, never wandering into overblown, overly colorful descriptions. Laymen and military aficionados alike will be able to appreciate the dark humor, uncomplicated voice and distinct images. The dialogue contains a grim “soldier’s humor” that is thoroughly enjoyable. The aliens are both a faceless hoard and individual terrors, creating a fear that is almost palpable, but gradually building so the reader can almost empathize with them.

Although the book addresses themes of suicide and depression, the author never uses language that is self-indulgent or pitying, never writing down to his characters, but uses concrete, precise phrasing that makes the experiences vivid, traumatic, and real. Ochse wields his phrasing carefully and well, making this book an absolute pleasure to read, and the kind of book that will sweep up readers and not let them loose.

One criticism of this book could be that it tends to run a little heavy to the military technical jargon in places, but that lends more to the credibility of the book rather than detracting from it. Grunt Life is an overall superb action filled, science fiction thriller with great pacing, great characters, and an enemy that is at once vague and terrifying. Grunt Life is the kind of book that transcends genre into good storytelling, and this reviewer will be glad to encounter more books by this author.

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