The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack

Subtitle

Fierce Girls at War

Fierce Girls at War by Mike Adams

Book 1: Fierce Girls

When Sergeant Molly Bennett kills two of the sons of world famous terrorist, Hassan Gul, she pokes a hornets’ nest. When she and Lieutenant Rick O’Brien kill Gul, himself, and two more of his son’s, the hornets’ nest bursts open and all hell breaks loose. This is the backdrop to Mike Adam’s exciting new novel, Fierce Girls, and the foundation of a whole new series with the same name as Molly and Rick have to deal with the consequences of their actions.


The action in this book is intense, develops quickly and plausibly, but not necessarily in a predictable fashion. That’s good obviously! I learned quickly I could never be certain what Adams had in store on the next page. The other highlight of the novel is the large cast of fiercely independent and deadly capable characters. O’Brien’s large family (mother, sisters, daughter) often steals the show from the two technical heroes—but that’s a good thing because I have no doubt that these women will be taking center stage as the series develops.


In summation, the future is a mixed bag in Mike Adams’ 22nd century universe. On the one hand, technology is becoming truly amazing, faster-than-light travel has been developed and humanity is colonizing a planet orbiting another star. But on the other hand, the threat of terrorism is worse than ever and much of it is directed at stopping the colonizing of that new world. This well-thought-out mix produces plenty of problems which provides loads of excitement in this novel and promises even more in the books to come.


Book 2: Threat on the Horizon

The tension in this novel starts with page one and never lets up. Aliens have discovered the colony of New Hope and they are not happy to find humans invading their space. As a result, this whole book happens under the threat of alien attack made much more frightening because the colonists are not yet aware of their danger. So every decision the colonists make has the reader wondering what unexpected trouble it will cause them to encounter. It’s an incredibly successful strategy for forcing the reader to ignore everything else they’d planned to do today so that they can squeeze in a few more chapters of the novel.


While most of the action happens on New Hope, Adams has not forgotten the portions of his growing cast of characters who are still on earth. He also offers a substantial and much appreciated look at life on the interstellar transport—scenes which reminded me of many of my favorite Robert A. Heinlein novels. Most of these characters are strong, capable and potentially heroic men and women, but he also has a gift for creating the sexist, barely competent, politically appointed, superior officer that is so much fun to hate. My only concern about this series is the fear that Adams has only created such a large cast of beloved heroes so that he can pull a Walking Dead or a Game of Thrones on us and kill a heck of a lot of them off in the books to come. Guess I’ll have to jump into Book 3 to find out if my fears are right.





Book 3: Opening Shots

Adams takes his time in laying out the final groundwork leading up to the alien invasion of the New Hope colony. He gives the invaders an interesting mix of high tech and low tech weapons—justified by the primitive mercenaries that the star-faring invaders have hired as their front line forces. This serves the useful purpose of giving our heroes a chance, even though the vast number of enemies—not to mention their impressive martial skills—severely stacks the odds against them. Twin strengths of Adams’ account are the credible military response to the threat and the inability of civilians to simply follow the evacuation plans. He also creates an important subplot as our two principle heroes are shot down by the aliens in a shuttle containing fifty high school students. Not only do Rick and Molly have knowledge critical to the defense of the colonies which they can no longer share, but they are going to have to figure out how to keep all of these students alive in very hostile territory. So get ready to duck and cover, as you read the Opening Shots of the war for New Hope.



Book 4: First Contact

The action really heats up in this fourth volume of the Fierce Girls series. The aliens are advancing and the Rangers are scrambling to slow them down long enough to let them evacuate huge sections of the human population from the warzone. Adams is great at showing how confusing the situation is—especially since the aliens took out the communications satellites. All those characters he’s been slowly introducing over the last three books are getting their moments in the spotlight and it looks quite probable that most of them are not going to survive.


While all of this is happening, the two people I think of as Adam’s principle heroes (Rick Cassidy and Molly Pitchford) have to figure out how to save the lives of 50 high school girls and a little more than a dozen adults who have crashed with their shuttle a thousand miles deep in hostile wilderness. This second storyline is genius, because it lets Adams develop two very different types of adventure stories. The first half of the book is all military problems, but this second half is in many ways far more concerning. I think any of us can imagine what it would be like to be trapped in the middle of the Amazon with a bunch of high school kids. Even well-trained men and women would have a hard time surviving, and that’s the situation facing Rick and Molly. They are going to have to force these kids to grow up fast if any of them have a hope of getting out alive.


Can’t wait to get to the next novel to see how our two sets of heroes are going to solve their very different problems.



Book 5: A Bad Day On the River

The moment I’ve been worrying about since at least the second book strikes with a vengeance. It was obvious that it had to happen. An author of a military series is not going to spend lots of time encouraging you to love his large cast of characters if he didn’t plan to start killing them off. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt—especially since my favorite secondary-ranked character was one of the casualties. It’s just one more sign that the war is getting serious.


It’s not all doom and gloom however. The humans on the colony of New Hope are getting their act together and coming to grips with this literal threat to their existence on the colony. At the same time, Rick and Molly are struggling to get their charges to face up to the fact that they cannot sit around waiting to be rescued when A) Nobody knows where they are; and B) the colony is in a fight for its very survival. Adams also gives us quick looks at what’s happening on earth (who still doesn’t know about the invasion) and two of the starships unknowingly bringing more of our favorite characters into harm’s way. Time to start book six and find out how our heroes are going to get out of this mess.



Book 6: The Fight for the Pass

Mike Adams’, The Fight for the Pass, chronicles the next stage of the war for New Hope colony between the humans and the aliens determined to take the planet away from them. Like the other books in this series, the military action is tight and credible and especially after the deaths of the last book, kept me reading furiously to learn who would survive this time around. In addition, slightly more than half the book focuses on Rick and Molly and their seventy or so stranded fellow passengers marooned deep in the wilderness after their transport was shot down in the beginning of the war. Both of these storylines more than held my interest, and I can’t wait to learn what will happen in Book 7.


That being said, I do have three—let’s call them quibbles—that kept me from giving this volume the five stars I feel the first five books earned. First, there were no absolutely stand out moments in this book that I’m still thinking about after I finished reading it. All of the other novels thus far have had at least one (and sometimes many more) of these moments. The action here is solid, but I didn’t find one of the scenes that drives me to annoy my son by telling him all about it. Second, there is an increasing amount of repetition of stories in each of these volumes—places in the story where someone tells someone else about something that happened in an earlier book. As an author, I understand how important these scenes are so I am not condemning Adams for putting them in the story. But I’ve been reading the series very rapidly and I remember all of these scenes quite well (many are the standout scenes I referred to in the previous point) and I think there were just slightly too many of them this time around. Finally, Rick and Molly give all fifty of the high school girls they are trying to get to safety nicknames that confused me terribly. I was just getting to recognize about ten of the young women by their regular names when the nicknames came along. In the context of the book, this made perfect sense, but it confuses me to no end.


Alright, enough quibbling! If you like well-rounded characters, women who can be strong and tough while still being feminine, and really excellent action scenes all set in a very credible off world colony, Fierce Girls is the series for you. I can’t wait to start reading the next book.





Book 7: Deluge

Mike Adams throws a curve ball at the reader in the seventh volume of his excellent Fierce Girls at War series. The alien invasion of the colony of New Hope is well underway, but the crisis moment of this novel is not the expected invasion of Winter Haven, but a natural disaster that threaten the lives of all of the survivors of the crashed shuttle, Cairo. This was very well done—a tense action scene with very realistic aftermath that really drives home that wildlife and aliens are not the only problems for the humans trapped in the wilderness. It’s a wonderful thing when an author can still surprise you seven books into a series.





Book 8: Enemy Found

There are a lot of moving parts in this novel and the tension gets sharper and sharper in all of them. The colony has to stand off another alien attack and figure out where they will find the resources to withstand the next one; the castaways on the Cairo come face to face with a hard truth most of them didn’t truly believe they would ever face; another group of isolated soldiers struggles to get home; the crew of the inbound starship, Asia, is trying to figure out why the colony isn’t communicating with them; and on earth, terrorist activity against the colony program continues to pose a significant threat. All of these storylines kept me flipping pages as rapidly as I could read. Can’t wait to start the next one.






Book 9: Recovery Mission

Finally our heroes go on the attack in their fight to save the colony. It’s not a full on assault, but a clever mission to penetrate behind enemy lines and recover vital supplies lost in the initial days of the alien invasion. The mission is well thought out and very interesting. At the same time, the aliens have finally discovered where the lost shuttle, Cairo, crashed with the implication being that they will send a force (hopefully in the next novel) to take possession of it—leaving another set of our heroes to hold them off with only fifty high school girls to back them up. It’s another fast paced, well-thought-out adventure.





Book 10: Jack’s Company

A lot happens in this action packed novel. The star ship, Asia, finally reaches the colony, the Rift starts its new offensive against the eastern settlements, and Rick, Molly and their band of high school castaways are put to the test when the aliens decide to scoop up the Cairo where it crashed in the mountains. Things look really bad for our heroes, but a lot of smart preparations give them a chance to survive the coming battles. All they need now is a little luck! This is easily the most powerful book so far in a very strong series. The biggest “problem” with it is that you’ll want to start the next book just as soon as you finish this one.





Book 11: Death by Water, Death by Fire

The tension just keeps growing in this series as the aliens of the Rift make a massive push to conquer the eastern colonies before winter sets in. One of the things that makes these books so strong is that the humans, despite their superior tactical and strategic experience, are still capable of being surprised and of making miscalculations. The author is also more than willing to kill off his large cast of rangers. So you never know what’s going to happen when the two sides clash and that will keep you flipping pages way past your bedtime.





Book 12: The Raid on Southport

One of the most difficult things for an author to do is to let his heroes make mistakes. First, authors are rooting for their heroes and want them to win. Second, those mistakes can easily make the heroes look foolish, undercutting qualities that the author has spent books crafting. So The Raid on Southport is about a mistake that several people make in the war between the colony of New Hope and the Rift—and it’s a credit to Mike Adams that he pulls off this blunder (which will have loads of consequences further down the road) without destroying our esteem for key players in the cast. It’s also good for the entire series. Our heroes don’t always win—and again, the cast is large enough that Adams can afford to kill many of them off without harming his ability to tell the rest of his story.





Book 13: Hitting Back

I read the first 12 books of this series very rapidly and thoroughly enjoyed them. After waiting for nearly two months for the thirteenth volume to be published, I feared that it would be difficult to step back into the Fierce Girls at War universe. My worries were groundless. From the first sentences I was fully engaged again and really had no difficulty picking up where we left off with Adams’ large cast. This is another tense installment in the series which not only provides lots of intelligent military action, it also sets up several future problems our colonists are going to have to deal with down the road. Yet it’s by no means simply an action festival. There’s a lot of credible planning of these operations and plenty of signs that the enemy is ratcheting up its own strategy to deal with the colonists’ successes of the last several books. The only thing wrong with this novel is that we have to wait for the next book to be published.



Book 14: Orders to Leave

An awful lot is happening in this novel as Adams transitions to the next stage of the war. The aliens are getting smarter and we see Bridget, one of the sisters of hero Rick Cassidy, finally complete her journey to the colony. The demon wolves finally reach Cassidy and the stranded colonists and the rest of the colony and the aliens are getting ready to knock their enemies on their asses. What’s most fascinating is that both the humans and the aliens are probably correct in that assessment. Times are about to get much worse for both sides.


The aliens also have finally figured out that the humans never expected to find an intelligent adversary on this world and so have most likely not brought their best offensive weapons. They further realize that once the human home world learns what has happened, much more devastating weapons are likely to be on the way. What’s not clear is why the aliens think that feeding all these humans to their mercenaries will somehow protect them. It seems to me that if the humans choose to bring in true military hardware, the aliens are doomed whether or not they have killed all the humans currently on the planet or not. Yet the alien failure to understand just how bad their larger strategic picture is doesn’t lessen the danger that our heroes face, but it does show that they really haven’t fully understood the precariousness of their situation.





Book 15: Change of Destination

We’ve been waiting for about 12 books now to see how earth will respond to the news that aliens are invading New Hope Colony and in Change of Destination we finally get to see that first response and it was worth every minute of the wait. As one might expect, it comes as a shock to Ranger command to learn that intelligent aliens exist and they are attacking the colony, but they rebound well and lay the groundwork for some excellent battles to come—assuming the colony can survive long enough for reinforcements to reach them. And that survival is by no means certain. The reinforced aliens have started their new offensive and things are not going well for the colonists. The aliens have finally gotten clever. Add that to their vastly superior numbers and it’s going to get bloody on the colony over the next few books.





Book 16: Burning Mountain

At the end of Change of Destination, the previous book in this series, things looked pretty bleak for the colonists of New Hope. I expected the next couple of novels to be filled with heavy human casualties and lost settlement after lost settlement. But author Mike Adams surprised me. Rather than title this book, Burning Mountain, he should have called it The Humans Get Clever—and oh do they.


If you like smart military tactics, ingenious tricks, hard fighting and intelligently courageous action, this is the book for you. At two different settlements, the humans dig in and start out thinking the aliens again and that produces some extremely clever and totally believable counterattacks. Some of the things they do are things I wondered about (like finding a way to give the shuttles some fire power), but most of them were pure surprises to me. The colonists are a long way from being out of trouble, but after this book there is a little more hope on the horizon.



Book 17: The March South

Adams returns to his Fierce Girls at War series with another strong entry in the consistently high quality science fiction military adventure. Now that we’re seventeen books in its worth taking a few moments to remember how we got here. Earth is developing its first interstellar colony. It’s an impressively international effort marred only by the terrorist groups that oppose any interstellar colonization and the normal distrust that nations have for each other. To minimize that distrust, the earth governments have agreed to minimize the military hardware on the admittedly dangerous planet to modest automatic rifles with minimal excess ammunition. This leaves the colony ill prepared to defend itself when aliens show up to contest their right to the planet.


The aliens, however, are not your typical sf villains. While they definitely count as bad guys in the series, the “jammies” as the humans come to call them are not used to waging war among themselves and when they do find the need to fight generally use low tech proxies to wage their battles for them. These proxies, the raagaa, are physically durable creatures using medieval-style weapons. They also find human flesh to be a delicacy. The long-lived jammies are inexperienced in combat and slow to react making “initiative” one of the primary human strategic assets during the war.


The other factor to keep in mind is that it takes about six months for a ship to get from the colony of New Hope to the earth and another six months to get back again. So from the beginning of the alien attack, the humans have recognized that their primary task is to hold on until help (in the form of military back up with state of the art weaponry) can reach them. This leads to the only significant weakness in the overall story. The aliens aren’t stupid. They also figure out that the humans are much more warlike than they are and that their reinforcements are likely to bring much more advanced and destructive weapons, yet somehow they think that killing and eating every human on the planet before the reinforcements arrive will resolve the conflict in their favor. Maybe this is simply a reflection on how their species would react to a similar situation, but it seems rather dense of them.


The March South picks up the storyline of a group of captured humans who are basically waiting to be eaten. Their situation is desperate and they have no hope. The aliens have pushed the humans back to only three settlements and the colonists have no ability to locate or rescue the prisoners. But by fortuitous, but credible, coincidence, one of the main storylines that has been being developed for fifteen books, crosses paths with the prisoners. On the first day of the war, a shuttle bearing a handful of rangers, two of the principal heroes of the series, and about fifty young women from the New Hope Academy was shot down by the aliens and crashed in the wilderness far from any hope of rescue. Our heroes have been training those young women to fight as the colonial rangers do and after about six months of preparation have been trying to march their way out of the wilderness to civilization. This small group (called Jack’s Company) encounters the raagaa with many of the prisoners and their clash forms the central action of the novel. Then Adams does one of the things that makes this series so good. In the aftermath of the rescue he brings a great deal of strife into Jack’s Company by having many of the rescued prisoners be self-centered jerks unable to recognize the reality of their circumstances and to take the young women who rescued them seriously. In the midst of all the life and death struggles that dominate the series, this is a very different style of challenge that makes this novel stand out from the rest. As always, I am looking forward to the sequel.

Book 18: Sacrifice

Adams shifts gears a little in this eighteenth novel in the series and spends about 70% of the book focusing on the efforts of Rick Cassidy and Molly Bennett to guide fifty high school girls and a dozen or so chaperones, plush the captives they rescued in the last book, through the wilderness to safety. Of course, the wilderness they are working their way through is overrun with about 30,000 aliens and all the normal dangerous creatures that inhabit the planet of New Hope. Then again, these high school girls have spent six months training as colonial rangers and they aren’t exactly helpless.


If you’ve been reading my reviews of the series, you’ll know that these novels are well balanced between action and the planning of the military campaign against the aliens. This one goes more on the action side and the tension increases accordingly. Add to that that the title of the book is called “Sacrifice” and you’ll spend each encounter wondering who’s going to make the ultimate sacrifice in the novel. Adams isn’t exactly George R. R. Martin killing off his whole cast in Games of Throne but he’s already taken out several of my favorite characters so I never feel that anyone is safe in these books. That willingness pays dividends here as we wonder which of these young soldiers is going to die.


To further increase the suspense, in the last book Cassidy and his soldiers rescued several humans captured by the aliens and a couple of them just cannot come to the grips with the reality that they are in the middle of the wilderness fighting for their lives. They want to control everything and to be pampered. They’ve already gotten several of their fellow captives killed and every time they came on screen I wondered what idiotic thing they would do to increase the danger to the rest of the group. It was an excellent device to make a bad situation even worse.


This novel also includes excellent sections in which the humans and aliens separately recognize how precarious there two situations are (with reinforcements coming to both sides) and lay their plans accordingly. The next books are likely to be even more exciting.