Virtues of War

By Bennett R. Coles

ISBN# 9781783294206

Author’s website:

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Scott


With the exception of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, and Joseph Haldeman’s Forever War, never have I read an up and coming author like Bennett R. Coles, literally topple and overcome his predecessors in the genre of military soft science fiction, in his book Virtues of War. The Jolting hi-tension action, and edge of your seat suspense, in this hard hitting, action filled, novel, leaves you wanting for more. Luckily this is the first book in a new trilogy, so at least, lovers of this genre will be tempted (and you will be) to pick up more (and perhaps, his last two novels). A military veteran himself, Coles breezes you through the more complicated of military protocol and produces a work that is accessible to all audiences. The science, as in any good speculative fiction novel, accentuates, not dominates the core of the book.

The writing whips by you at the speed of a bullet; you’re hardly standing in the same spot for very long and then the end of the chapter hits you. Coles in a deft manner pulls you and literally begs you to continue; it was a work that was hard to put down. Pushing you through the story, and throwing plot crisis after plot crisis at you, leaves you jittery, and full of emotion when the novel concludes. Crisp sharp words punctuate the novel and never, outside of Robert Ludlum, have I been exposed to such tight word economy with concentration on the unfolding of the explosive narrative. Skillful prose whips by you as you frantically try to finish the book. The pacing is haphazardly fun and reckless. Like a hydra chopping off one head to have two others grow, the reader is split in three convergent paths through the novel. This never once caused anything but momentum buildup, and in the writing alone this merits strong attention.

The plot is pure military genius, and readers of the late Tom Clancy, will greatly appreciate Bennett’s military background shining through on what he knows best. Combining the tales of a Fast Attack Craft (FAC) crew, and the seeds of an interstellar war, everything has its place in Virtues of War, and is self-contained so it can be read on its own. The frenetic pacing between FAC assault, combined forces operations and capital attack craft assault, leaves you dizzy but wanting more. Plotting is as tight as a drill formation and following the three converging paths to the stunning conclusion is handled with the ease and confidence of a science fiction veteran.

Where would a fast-paced thriller be without its characters? Virtues of War renders even the most minor of background characters their own voice, utilizing the military command chain of command to limit, in a sense, their overall importance to this story. Apparent by how much they appear. Initially, limited to the crew and soldiers of a FAC, but later buildups to the movers and shakers of the fate the Terran system itself, no character of importance is left hanging in the air. Every one of them is carved out perfectly via dialogue and action. The nucleus of the trio of protagonists, shine especially bright in each regard, bringing to from the highs and lows of human emotion and leaves the reader hanging off every word.

I’d highly recommend this book to everyone, not just readers of military science fiction, such as Heinlein and Haldeman, or military fiction like that in Clancy or Ludlum. Virtues of War, By Bennett R. Coles will stand the rigors of timelessness, and in that regard, warrants a five out of five star review.