Andrew Grayson wants out. Growing up in the wretched urban tenements of the North American Commonwealth in the year 2108 has left him bitter, jaded and willing to risk his life to avoid becoming another barely surviving victim of a failed social system. His mother and father are no longer together and Andrew knows that if he wants a future the only real way out is to join the Armed Forces of the North American Commonwealth.
In the world of 2108 war is constant. Mankind has gone to space and is colonizing other planets, but we can’t seem to stop fighting each other whether on this world or another. For Grayson, joining the military is risky because conflict is real and there are no guarantees of where he will be assigned if he even makes it through training.
Basic Training in the future is much like it was in the past, except they don’t care if you quit because you are disposable. The incentives to stay, which are financially much greater than anything someone from Andrew’s demographic can hope for, are immense…. if you can manage to survive the training and service that follows. The hook is that soldiers are retained in the service until the conflict is over. So, once you are in, there is no getting out.
After completing training and falling hopelessly, madly in love with one of his fellow recruits (Halley), Andrew draws the perceived short straw and is assigned to the Territorial Army, the forces that remain on earth to fight the enemy and suppress rebellion. Andrew’s whole motivation was to get to space, to get away from the depressed, economic hell that his world has been, but he will instead be on earth.
Kloos paints a fairly bleak picture of the future. Most people live in unpleasant housing zones, have no appreciable skills and are fed terrible low-calorie meals that are just enough to keep them alive. It’s all very interesting, though. Manipulating the lower social elements through the number and quality of calories they consume? The simmering discontent that would seem a natural by-product of a situation like that makes a great backdrop for a science fiction story.
In time, Andrew makes it to space, encounters an alien race, fights in a lot of battles and evolves into a hardened veteran. The plot does not run at a breakneck pace, but Kloos doesn’t drag things along either. There are multiple layers of challenges for the common person, represented by Andrew, a boy who just wants to spend time with his sweetheart, to struggle with. There’s a relevant moral dilemma, too — why do we continue to fight each other out of habit when an even greater threat exists?
Terms of Enlistment is not one of those books that I want to tell everyone to read because it’s not new or ground-breaking in any way. But if you like easily digestible science fiction with a blend of political commentary, military combat and some good old romance then this is a fine, if rather average read. Andrew’s story continues in Lines of Departure, the second book in the FRONTLINES series.