New book from ABCtaler Gavin Smith

Tony Cook reviews 'Veteran', the debut novel from ABCtales member Gavin ( and just published by Orion:

First of all I should make a confession. This is probably the last book in the bookshop that I would choose to read having read the blurb on the back. Described as ‘a welcome new recruit to the black ops cadre of combat SF’ – this is clearly not my thing.
But I have read it due to the fact that Gavin Smith is a long term ABCtaler – and I must confess that it was a hugely enjoyable and, at times, stimulating read.
This is the story of former special forces soldier Jakob Douglas. Set on a post holocaust Earth where a 60 year war has raged across the solar system against ‘Them’, it follows the fortunes of the part man, part specially engineered killing machine as, along with former prostitute Morag from Dundee, they make contact with the enemy and discover that they are a peaceful, vegetative species who have been forced into combat by the war-mongering Cabal who control humanity.
Along the way they enlist the help of hackers like Pagan and Vicar, other former soldiers like Rannu and the man/weird sea creature Balor. It’s all very cartoony and a lot of the plot is taken up with extraordinary descriptions of crash, bang, wallop impossible battles where massive shells merely dent armour and men continue to fight with most of their limbs missing. There is a great deal of gnashing, smashing and bashing and if that really isn’t your bag, then you have been warned. Gavin Smith, though, does write it all with great panache. The battles are visually pleasing in the mind’s eye and that is down to the skill of the author – or watching too many Hollywood blockbusters.
What raises this book above the ridiculous are the sections where the protagonists debate their actions. What we have here are massive sweeps across systems of political governance, philosophy, gender definition and religion. It does feel at times as if Smith feels that it’s time to move from action to debate, then suddenly realises that he might be losing his audience and rushes back to action. The delineation between the two sides of the book are clunky but it’s hard to see how it could be avoided. The sum total is a book that’s worth reading. I’ve even ordered a copy for my brother in law’s birthday – so that’s putting my money where my mouth is.
‘Veteran’ is funny, silly, thought provoking, outrageous and strangely compelling. If you know anyone who likes this sort of stuff then buy it for them now – and, if possible, borrow it back and take a read yourself. You may be surprised.

'Veteran' is out now, price £12.99 in paperback and obtainable from Amazon here: