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The Clone Alliance by Steven L. Kent – Book Review

Based on the blurbs on the back of The Clone Alliance, you might open it expecting to read Hemingway or Joseph Heller. Instead you don’t The Clone Alliance by Steven L Kenteven get David Drake. The Clone Alliance is military Science Fiction, but it’s bad even by the standards of military SF. Like most of the breed, Clone Alliance exists in a universe where wars are still fought pretty much the way they are now, except the weapons are a little better. But in Clone Alliance, the entire universe is also just like the United States, except the weapons are a little better. A little, not much. Your average writer might be called a hack for coming up with nothing better than a Space United States and its Marines and SEALS fighting a Space Confederacy and a Space Scientology. But if you have the right marketing, it can be passed off as inspired social commentary.

Even bad Military SF writers usually know enough to create colorful characters. Steven L. Kent instead writes about clones who have as little in the way of a personality as you would expect. The main character could be confused with wallpaper, except wallpaper is more outgoing. Everyone he interacts with is just as one dimensional. Asshole officers. Cartoon marines. And yeah, that’s about it. Aside from some Japanese officers who the book repeatedly tells us are very Japanese. Over and over again. A taciturn bounty hunter. And one marine with a sense of humor, who just makes the narrator and every other character in the book look bland and blank by comparison. Again in your average writer, this might be dubbed hackery. But with the right marketing, it’s inspired social commentary about clones. Or something.

It doesn’t get any better than that. The Space United States just lost a war against Space Scientology. But don’t worry, there’s no chance of this going anywhere interesting, because the Space Scientologists don’t bother to invade Earth. Instead they hang around. Also they’re hopelessly incompetent buffoons who can’t tie their own shoelaces without tripping over. You might think that they might be interesting, but don’t worry they have no personality traits besides incompetence. Luckily they have the help of aliens who provided them with invulnerable shields. Unluckily for them, shields can be turned off. That’s about as interesting as it gets.

The Clone Alliance is probably the worst piece of Military SF I ever read. It has no new ideas. It imagines that formulaic agonizing about how hard and unpleasant war is, is breaking new ground. Which it might be in SF if Kent had a time machine that he could use to travel back to the seventies. The book ends with the completely forgettable main character vowing to have nothing to do with fighting for the Space United States Marines ever again. I’ve never read any of the other Clone books, but I have a sneaking suspicion that every one of them ended the same way.

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