Veteran by Gavin Smith (Gollancz)

Title: Veteran
Author: Gavin Smith
Genre: Military Science Fiction
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Gollancz, June 2010

Order from: Amazon US | UKsfbok

Three hundred years in our future, in a world of alien infiltrators, religious hackers, a vast convoying nation of Nomads, city sized orbital elevators, and a cyborg pirate king who believes himself to be a mythological demon Jakob is having a bad day: “Nothing gets in the way of a hangover like being reactivated by your old C.O and told to track down an alien killing machine. The same kind of killing machine that wiped out my entire squad. And now it’s in my hometown. My name is Jakob Douglas, ex-special forces. I fought Them. Just like we’ve all been doing for 60 bloody years. But I thought my part in that was done with. My boss has other ideas. If I didn’t find the infiltrator then he’d let the Grey Lady loose on me. And believe me; even They’ve got nothing on her. So I took the job. It went to shit even faster than normal. And now I’m on the run with this teenage hacker who’s had enough of prostitution. The only people I can rely on want to turn the internet into God. And now it turns out that They aren’t quite what we’d all thought. I’ve been to the bottom of the sea and the top of the sky and beyond trying to get to the truth. And I still can’t get far enough away from the Grey Lady. All things considered I’d rather be back at home deep in a whiskey bottle.”

Veteran is a fast paced, intricately plotted violent SF Thriller set in a dark future against the backdrop of a seemingly never ending war against an unknowable and implacable alien enemy.


Veteran is Gavin Smith’s debut novel and it is dedicated to Ruth & James Nicoll. I believe that they are “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary” – James Nicoll and his wife. I found the quote online and I just had to include it here. English’s actions as described are appropriate to the novel.

The Author

Gavin Smith is new both to me and the world but he writes like a pro. I had to check inside if it was a pseudonym for an established author. Gavin Smith is 35. Born in Dundee he now lives in Leicester. He has a degree in Media Production (specializing in script writing) and a MA in Medieval history. He owns his own marketing company.

World building

Earth is a gritty place with social segregation after a long war with the alien Them and Gavin paints it well even though the story is written in first person. There are flashbacks to the time Jakob Douglas fought in the war that explains a great deal. There is also a lot of discussions that sometimes slows down this otherwise fast paced story but makes it clear to the reader what really is going on.


The plot is in short that Jakob Douglas is reactivated to hunt down one of Them. Then he discovers that there is more going on than meets the eye and become the hunted himself. He must fight back to stay alive. Which he eventually does after a number of adventures in some spectacular and intriguing places with names like Rigs, Crawling Town and Atlantis.


The characters are what I really love with this story. They are gritty and twisted but in a good way. Jakob is no superman he has lots of luggage from the war to carry around but he grows as the story grows. But no one grows more than Morag, first the story play her as an almost insignificant figure which reflects the way Jakob and the others  treat her. This is something she resents but it is also her driving force to grow later in the story where she becomes principal.

There are a great many other notable characters both friends and enemies that easily takes up life in the mind of the reader.

The banter and bickering is excellent and that is a huge plus for me.

My view

Veteran is an excellent read, I had trouble putting it down. This is one of the best books I read so far this year. It got mysterious aliens, conspiracies, realistic battle scenes, fast pace, lots of wow moments and wonderful characters. I would say this is a mixture of Heavy Metal, Cyber Punk and Classic SF. It is Military Science Fiction at its best and I would recommend it to a wider audience. I can’t wait for his next book.

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