The Lazarus War is a Sci-Fi trilogy by Jamie Sawyer. The first book is called Artefact, published by Orbit Books.
Artefact is a pure, concentrated page-turner. It is compulsively readable and incredible fun. Sawyer is clearly a huge fan of Sci-Fi subculture, and that works just fine for me. He evokes the tense and powerful Marine group dynamic of Aliens, the interstellar travel and stacked odds of Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series, while tossing in the awesome notion of armoured space marines fighting repellent and hyper aggressive alien civilisations. It soars.
The first book is an explosion of conflict, intrigue and world building. This trilogy is up there with life absorbing stories like Pat Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle, Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive, Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series and Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files in terms of pure enjoyment. It is heady company, but it is deserved. I read Artefact in one sitting, and it has been a very long time since I’ve done that. Sawyer promises big with these references, allusions and influences and he delivers.
The Synopsis reads:
Mankind has spread to the stars, only to become locked in warfare with an insidious alien race. All that stands against the alien menace are the soldiers of the Simulant Operation Programme, an elite military team remotely operating avatars in the most dangerous theatres of war.
Captain Conrad Harris has died hundreds of times – running suicide missions in simulant bodies. Known as Lazarus, he is a man addicted to death. So when a secret research station deep in alien territory suddenly goes dark, there is no other man who could possibly lead a rescue mission.
But Harris hasn’t been trained for what he’s about to find. And this time, he may not be coming back . . .
Sound great? Good. You’ll love this.
Conrad Harris is our protagonist, along with his squad of, in Hudson from Alien’s words, ultimate badasses. The narrative is a first person construction. Harris is our anchor and window into the world. We drop in with Harris and watch as he and his team grow, as the legend and mythology surrounding them expands. The characters are well fleshed out, sympathetic and avoid the sticky tendencies of awkwardness when drawing from sub-cultural influences.
Harris’ Legion is varied and incredibly fun. The dynamic is of intrinsic importance because Sawyer inundates the novel with sources of conflict, and it simply doesn’t work if you don’t care about these guys and girls. I was invested quickly and I couldn’t stop turning pages. I simply had to know where it was going. The book interweaves timelines for Harris. Flashbacks provide the exposition for Harris’ history and inform his present. Sawyer builds significant sympathy for Harris as a character there, in addition to characters from his past, which impact upon the present day narrative. It all serves a purpose and the changes of pace did very little to hinder my immersion, which is always a risk with contrasting time-lines.
The book’s backdrop details the post-interstellar hegemonies of human civilisation. The Alliance forms the home and affiliation of Harris and his team. The Directorate is a block of power that opposes the Alliance in human space, a violent, aggressive and manipulative collection of human states. The final major block of power is the alien threat, the Krell Collective, who have, previous to the first novel, been manoeuvred into an uneasy truce with the Alliance. There is now a quarantine zone between human space and Krell space, but conflict still rages within it. The Krell don’t appear to care much for diplomacy. The quarantine zone has become Harris’ stomping ground.
The simulants are a secret branch within the Alliance military that allows soldiers to pilot cloned bodies that are significantly more combat able than the natural and transient human form, along with suits of mechanised armour and oversized weapons that a normal solider wouldn’t have a hope of wielding. They form neural links with these bodies, hence the ‘addicted to death’ note in the synopsis. Death sends the soldier’s mind back to his or her actual body, so simulant soldiers define experience and seniority through their deployment/death counts. You’d think that this would reduce some of the tension, temporary death and the like, but it doesn’t. Sawyer makes sure that the stakes are continuously high for the Legion, the conflict significant and dangerous. It quickly becomes apparent that the simulants are necessary to face the brutal lethality of the Krell.
I could write all day about how much I loved this. So if anything at all in this rambling and effusive post has appealed to you, go and buy Artefact. If you are in any way a fan of Sci-Fi in any medium then you owe it to yourself to try this series out. I’m currently churning through the second book Legion, and I’ve already bought the final of the trilogy Origins. Adulthood hasn’t permitted me to sit and absorb the second book in the same way I did Artefact but that is no reflection on the quality. If anything the second book is even better. This series is great. The trilogy is now complete so it is a perfect time to pick it up. There is nothing more painful than an incomplete trilogy, especially when it as readable and compelling as this one. Read it. You won’t regret it. Jamie Sawyer has knocked this out of the park.