Military SF has a long history and more than one tradition, complicated by the issues of patriotism and war. Some are in the business of glorifying one or both of these, others are dismissing one or both as folly. Joel Dane’s Cry Pilot overall takes the latter approach, and yet attempts to keep battle morally justifiable through use of enemies that are not political, but more in the way of natural disasters.
These enemies are referred to as Remorts, a form of accidentally resurrected biotechnology. The setting is a strange cyberpunk dystopia following a biopunk apocalypse, and it is an interesting combination. One learns about forbidden technologies and attempts to reverse-engineer past science without actually reproducing it.
The lead is Kaytu, a man with a particularly disturbed past, and a strong internal desire to, on some level, make up for what he sees as his past crimes. That said, the reader is not initially told what it is he is apologizing for, and over the course of the book is drawn deeper and deeper into Kaytu’s past. This is sometimes done through simple past exposition, and others through PTSD like flashback on the part of the character. The combination works well, allowing the reader to find these new elements jarring while at the same time incorporating them into what they know about the character already. Unfortunately, the more public elements of this backstory prevent Kaytu from joining the military, the way that he would most desire to make up for his past. However there is a loophole in this, in that he can become a titular cry pilot.
The cry pilots are men and women who volunteer for a particular military service with a 6% per mission survival rate. Our lead gets himself into such an organization mostly as an excuse to get into the rank and file military. The character’s own thoughts on the subject make this abundantly clear, as do the opening moments of the text.
One issue one might have with this volume is that the ending is somewhat open. This is to say that Cry Pilot is the first book in a series, and that shows in the way that almost nothing in terms of the ongoing conflict is resolved by the end.
This edition of Cry Pilot includes a preview of the next volume in the series, supporting the slightly perfunctory ending. It’s a nice enough read, but shouldn’t be seen as more than a teaser.
Overall Cry Pilot is a good example of a military science fiction novel, managing to balance action with Pathos and avoid glorifying war while also maintaining an exciting and interesting atmosphere. The lead is fairly engaging, and connects to the others well enough to serve.