(Cover picture courtesy of The Island Scrivener.)
The Scarlet Bastards is the first in a series of memoirs from a retired jawan of the United Nations Off World Legion – a man by the name of Alexander Armstrong. He joined as a youth, fleeing the comfort and tedium of his teenage existence in 2098 – or as he characterized it, “in a fit of teenage pique” and was sent to the UN colony of Samsāra in orbit around Delta Pavonis, some twenty light years from Earth. A dumping ground for the downtrodden, the unwanted, and the forgotten, Samsāra with its nearly 100,000 Terrans and 250,000 Gliesiun refugees was a backwater hell – a technological and infrastructural wasteland where the tundra camel reined and a law-abiding and organized society was almost non-existent.
[Full disclosure: Sean Mac Úisdin sent me a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.]
I’m not sure what it was, but The Scarlet Bastards never made the jump from ‘okay book’ to ‘great book’. This could be because it’s not something I would normally read or maybe it really is just good, but not great. There were some things I absolutely loved about Mac Úisdin’s book, but there were some other elements that I didn’t like.
I’ll start with the former. I absolutely loved the idea of a spoiled Canadian boy setting off on an adventure to what turns out to be the United Nations’ most ragtag army ever. The premise was excellent and overall it was executed well. There was plenty of humour, but also some poignant moments, which is actually quite a bit to pack into one novella that’s only 50 pages long. As for the characters, you have your gag characters like MacShaka, but also your somewhat serious characters like Alexander himself. Alexander as a narrator has an interesting enough voice and does mature quite quickly throughout the story, so I appreciate the effort Mac Úisdin has put into character development.
At first I really loved the world of Samsāra, but because of some of the slang words used by MacShaka and other characters who had been there for a while, I don’t feel I got everything that I should have. The descriptions of what the army was wearing and some of the dialogue was so dialect and slang ridden that I really had no idea what was going on sometimes. Yes, adding character quirks and local slang is important, but when it’s overused it gets both confusing and annoying. And while the dialogue in The Scarlet Bastards never reaches the annoying stage, it is rather confusing.
Maybe it was the fact that this book was never meant for someone like me, but I don’t think this is a series I’ll be continuing. However, if the blurb sounds interesting to you, go ahead and read it! It might just be a matter of personal preference on my part.
I give this book 3.5/5 stars.