Cover Image: Cry Pilot

Cry Pilot

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Maseo Kaytu is a man with a past. Raised between refugee camps and the slums of Vila Vela, he’s had to make difficult choices to keep himself alive, leaving him with dark secrets he’s running from. In an attempt to find redemption, he signs up for the harrowing “cry pilot” trial—an opportunity to do his part fighting off enemies and protecting others by melding his mind with a powerful battle machine, an experience that brutally kills nine out of ten volunteers. If he survives, being a cry pilot will allow Kaytu to enlist as a new military recruit and begin his journey into redemption. And Kaytu has a plan to survive.

But survival is only the first step. In an alternate world where corporations have more power than governments, a devastated earth has been “terrafixed” with great effort—but the process isn’t without its side effects. Terrafixing gives abandoned machines and technology a new life, turning them into violent creatures that are both organic and inorganic—a fusion of weapon and mutated animal. After proving himself as a cry pilot, Kaytu becomes part of a squad training to defend against the latest of these threats (not to mention the most dire to date)—mysterious, ruthless creatures called lampreys hell-bent on destruction. With no known weaknesses and a casualty count mounting higher and higher, the pressure is on Kaytu and his squad to keep their reflexes quick and use all their training to fight against this seemingly unbeatable foe. Through it all, Kaytu has to decide: will he follow his needs, or the squad’s?

Cry Pilot, from pseudonymous author Joel Dane (described in a bio as “the author of more than 20 books” and a writer for film and television) is a vivid, immersive novel that leans strongly into its military science fiction identity. Its main asset is its voice: Kaytu’s strong personality and first-person narration creates an intimate reading experience. The worldbuilding is multilayered and rich with a sense of depth. There are unfamiliar terms on practically every page, but the flood of information serves to both replicate a complex military environment—replete with strong hierarchies and a wealth of information both classified and not—and also create a sense of verisimilitude by leaving background elements unexplained as regular facets of the characters’ lives. The science fictional elements deeply permeate every aspect of the world, story, and people.

The novel shows us a world that is multicultural and multifaceted. Various cultures have blended together, their influences hinted at in names, food, and other details. The cultures aren’t simply analogs of European nations—there is a truly global feeling to this future. It is also a setting in which LGBTQ people and relationships are normalized. Not only are the characters’ varying orientations reflected in their relationships with each other, but the very assumptions they make talking about families reveal a world in which it’s common to be raised by a pair of dads, a pair of moms, or “gen parents,” who are “gendother,” a nonbinary gender category. Characters don’t remark on LGBTQ aspects or assign labels to them. They are simply accepted.

Cry Pilot also offers a complex narrative of ability and disability through the character Rana, a member of Kaytu’s squad who is deaf. Rana’s deafness is a core part of her, but it isn’t the main focus of her character, and there is little comment specifically about her being deaf. But the monotone of her voice, for example, is something that other characters pick up and comment on. Where other recruits fail in orbital pod endurance training due to their balance being thrown off, Rana succeeds, completely unruffled; she’s learned not focus on inner ear cues for balance. Rana’s deafness has side effects and consequences, and its affect on her life and the role she plays in the narrative feels well thought out.

The ensemble nature of the novel is ultimately both a strength and a weakness. Through fun banter and terrifying training exercises, “Group Aleph”—Kaytu’s squad—is transformed from a handful of misfits and hot-headed personalities into a loyal crew in which every soldier has each other’s back. This transformation is sure to appeal to readers who love hearing about military units as much as individual heroes. However, the sheer number of characters means not all of them are given enough space to flourish, leaving a few late-novel deaths landing without much of an impact.

While the mysterious nature of the lampreys initially lends suspense to the plot, as Kaytu and the others prepare to square off against an unknown enemy, in the end, concealing information is a drawback to the overall pacing and narrative development. The squad is constantly disoriented, left in the dark about the nature of their training and their enemy. Eventually, the reader also begins to ask the same questions about what’s going on, meaning the stakes for each fight are unclear, and the objectives of each mission murky.

Overall, what you get out of the novel depends on what you expect going in. If it falls a bit short in its character development and pacing, it excels in its ability to immerse the reader in a chaotic military environment, one both completely alien and familiar in its pressures and hierarchies. Cry Pilot feels like a high-definition cyberpunk first-person shooter video game, with sleek, polished graphics and tons of lore to explore. If that’s your thing, suit up and dive in—this book will take you for a hell of a ride.

Cry Pilot is available now. A sequel, Burn Cycle, arrives in February 2020.
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This review was originally posted on  Books of My Heart

Review copy was received from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I've always enjoyed science fiction and space opera. Both scifi and fantasy sometimes are hard for me to start. The first book in the series has me trying to understand all the new people and places and they often have made up names.  Cry Pilot is the start of the Cry Pilot series and I had a little of the first book syndrome I sometimes have.

My efforts were compounded because we are not only looking at Katyu's current situation but  there are a few chapters flashing back to his past. His past is the emotional base for the present. He starts from a place of nearly certain death, hoping to survive and get into the military.  I suppose it's a spoiler he survives but it wouldn't be much of a book, much less a series if he died at the start of the first book.

There were a lot of characters, a lot of new worlds and new tech and all the terminology. It was richly detailed but not really overwhelming. The characters made it all real. They all may have their flaws  but also and tremendous strengths to build a team. I came to love the team.

Their military group is barely trained and set up as fodder for the trained groups. There's non-stop action with plenty of death, destruction and injuries. I won't spoil what happens but this is the little team that could.  It's a wild race to victory.

You definitely want to read the series in order or you'll be completely lost.  I like the bromance feel between the characters on the team. That provides a bit of subtle humor I enjoy. I'm moving on to see what happens next to the rest of the team in Burn Cycle.

"That's the biggest question in the world"

"That's the smallest answer."

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Cry Pilot came out in 2019, a debut military sci-fi novel set in a futuristic bleak version of Earth filled with threats like sentient (Ascended) AI, bio-engineering and mutant forms that arise out of a terraforming process, intended to bring back the older greener form of Mother Earth.

I admit, I haven't read much of military sci-fi. In a long long time time now. So Cry Pilot was a welcome leap back into this genre for me. But I admit, it took it's own sweet time working its charm on me as a reader. For most of the first quarter of the book, I was aloof and disenchanted by Maseo Kaytu, the "cry pilot"  who headlines the act and is our single first-person POV to the narrative. I was a bit disappointed, thinking that if I don't bond well enough with our main 'hero', rest of the narrative is going to fall by the wayside. But thankfully, with an adroit handle on the pacing, I was soon cruising into the exciting and gruelling training camps that Maseo had managed to sneak himself into,  for combat training as a lifelong soldier dedicated to the cause of protecting Earth.

More specifically. the corporate interests of the capitalist organisations running the show on Earth. Because hey, Earth in the future is indeed a botched up hot mess. After multiples of patriotic nations went to war over resources and drawing up boundary-lines, it was up to the big "corporations" who saw beyond the races and the nationalism, to protect the lives on earth and also initiate "recycling" of the older greener versions to mop up this mess.

There is a tremendous amount of world building to really flesh out the future that comes alive in Joel's prose. Tiny corporate enclaves where humans live at different levels, the lowest ghettos called as FreeHolds housing most of the 'have-nots' while the hotshots live in comfort at the top levels. Quite a few interesting future-tech also listed out in the book tickles your imagination. It's fascinating and also cumbersome in equal measures as Joel frequently side-tracks down a rabbit hole to gush euphoric on the tech-details of the latest weaponry and gadgets that define the "military" nature of the narrative. But truly, Joel's extensive vision for our future Earth is nicely mapped out, coming alive in fits and bursts as the narrative races through the tough training sessions that Kaytu and his team is subjected to.

There are bon-homie and bro-bonding  scenes galore here as Kaytu tries to bond with his soldier team. Kaytu initially comes across as a bit mysterious, a man consumed by his guilt and one who would never "sacrifice" his own team, for any larger goal or objective. Making him 'selfish' and thus, a 'patriot' at heart, unfit to be a soldier carrying out orders. Now Joel neatly defines this further on, delving deeper into Kaytu's chequered background to understand the reasons behind this behaviour and thus further endearing this character to the reader. Kaytu's character in fact, is set up like an ogre. Subsequent flashbacks reveal and unwrap a new layer and this was rewarding ( at least it was, for me!)

Kaytu's team mates are also well written. But his relationship with two of them really stand out. First, his friendship with Tingting, a young girl who is the only one among the three survivors of an early cry-pilot outing. (Now Cry Pilot, the title of the book and a confusing centralised theme of the whole narrative is a volunteer pilot who steps into these AI-Mecha flying contraptions called CAV, a uniquely designed flying technovation built to damage and take out the sentient machine threats to this world. The survival rates are dismal and CAVs usually end up as junked up suicide tin-cans for these pilots.) Now Ting is a tech-whiz and can hack through any forms of communication protocol and networks, becoming the eyes and ears of this team in this world running on digi-comms. But she also harbours a dangerous secret, one that could see both Kaytu and her kicked out of the military training. Then there is Rana, a high-born who enlists for the same training as Kaytu, on who is born for the stars and is clear officer-rank material. She remains that enigma for the 'gutter-roach' that Kaytu is. But the sparks between them is unmistakable! The rest of them are all special and uniquely characterised with their own idiosyncrasies developed over the course of the whole narrative that focuses on their extensive training. The one thing that unites them, is their undying zeal to complete the mission that they have been chosen for.

This mission: combat and eliminate a new threat, a mutated mecha-AI-bio combatant foe that has risen from backyards of the whole "Terraforming" exercise, whose ability to inflict damage to human lives and infrastructure is massive and terrifying. Known as 'lamprey', nobody in the military have been able to effectively neutralise these threats. Can Kaytu's team rise up, will their training be enough for them to combat this foe, forms the rest of the narrative.

Joel writes up a storm, with the whole pulse-pounding action sequences and scintillating battle-scenes lifted straight out of a futuristic video-action-game thriller. I enjoyed these quite a lot and having warmed up to the character of Kaytu and his best friends caught up in the middle of this battle, with the odds stacked up against them, the book was quite an enjoyable ride.

Clunky jargons and info-dumps aside, Cry Pilot is an excellent military science fiction book, designed to thrill your senses. With inventive world building and well crafted characters, this series is an intriguing and thought-provoking look at what the future can hold. Liberally interspersed with adrenaline-pumping military warfare, it's an excellent start to a futuristic sci-fi series. Highly recommended.
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Cry Pilot by Joel Dane introduces readers to a far future Earth that had nearly succumbed to global environmental destruction. Thanks first to AIs, then to corporatised military, the Earth is now slowly healing. Terrafixing is repairing the planet, but it also repairs biomechanical creations from the last great world war, resurrecting them as Remorts. For the strongest Remorts, CAVs are employed. These nimble machines seem made to be symbiotically paired with a human pilot, though no-one knows how. Instead, cry pilots are used, and when the pilot dies, the CAV returns home. These kamikaze pilots are taken from the criminal pool. A pardon, and chance to join the military, await the scant few lucky enough to survive. 

Maseo Kaytu is a man with secrets, and the need to make reparations. Unable to enlist in the military by normal means, Maseo commits a crime, and volunteers as a cry pilot. Managing to survive by wiles, Maseo gets to enlist, but before he and his group are ready, they are sent after a deadly new Remort, one capable of chewing up CAVs. Can the fledgling Javelin squad survive long enough to learn about these new creatures and how to destroy them, or is humanity's time about to be up?

I wasn't feeling this book to begin with. There were several things that felt like they didn't have enough explanation to start with, and it left me feeling confused. After about the first third, the story became quite engaging, and things were fleshed out. The training and initial conflicts with the lampreys were exciting, and once they left training, the action got pretty intense. Just don't get too attached to characters! Several die some pretty grim deaths. Fighting the lampreys is no joke. I'm glad my favourite character- Ting Ting- makes it to the end. I'm looking forward to seeing how things progress with her in the next book.

I loved the concept of the technopaths! I hope we get to meet more in the next book. It seems like they could be very valuable assets against the lampreys. Most die young or are killed given how unpredictable and dangerous being an untrained technopath can be. But we see a potential maintenance medicine here, with stem, and it seems like such an obvious solution that maybe the government is using it on their captured technopaths, and not owning up to it. Just the ability to control tech with your mind sounds so cool! I found Kaytu's unique meditation fascinating and I want to learn more about the culture that created it. Recommended, especially if you enjoy the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown.

***Many thanks to the Netgalley & Berkley/ Ace for providing an egalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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This book was a fantastic read! Interesting & complex characters, a fascinating world that's both horrifying and interesting. I just had to keep reading.
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I loved this book (and can't wait for the next entry!)
Amazing, creative world-building, strong characters, lots of tension. WHEW. This book sucked me in from the start.
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Cry Pilot is relatively near future military SF, set in an Earth devastated by wars in which horrific bioweapons were unleashed (and are being reborn), remorts. Protagonist Maseo Kaytu seeks redemption for actions as a child as a member of the military.

Though it takes a while to get a sense of what's going on in this future world, and to understand our hero's backstory, Cry Pilot is thoroughly engrossing once you do.
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A dystopian future where a ruined Earth is "terrafixed" and creates AI monsters? SIGN ME UP. 

Maseo Kaytu is a young man with a past he wants to make up for, and sets his sights on the military to do it. But traditional military channels aren't open to a kid from a refugee camp, so Kaytu finds an alternate route: as a "cry pilot", the name given to pilots who take on suicide missions against some of the most horrifying monsters. He beats the odds, survives, and thrives in the infantry, where he forms close bonds with his fellow soldiers. But his platoon is sent up against a new, even worse monster - and the "patriots" that guard their homes against the military are just as much of a threat. Kaytu will have to re-evaluate everything he's gone into the military intending to carry out in order to stay alive.

Cry Pilot is near-unputdownable. It's solid sci-fi with monsters and mechs, phenomenal world-building, and a diverse group of characters I immediately bonded to. It's a Starship Troopers kind camaraderie (minus the overt propaganda/anti-war message), and fans of corporate military sci fi - think Peter Tieryas' United States of Japan and Mecha Samurai Empire, with a liberal splash of Pacific Rim - will eat this up. 

The book is out today, and I've already been telling everyone I know about it for the last two weeks.
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Cry Pilot features multifaceted worldbuilding in a future where corporations run things side-by-side with the military. The enemies are stronger and the stakes are higher as the world mends from human ineptitude. The book manages to combine military, high-tech, and dystopian science fiction in one compelling narrative, featuring well-drawn characters and central protagonist you want to root for.

To start, I’m fascinated by the central enemies in this strange future Earth, the remorts. Imagine a future where we actually get it together enough as a planet to do something about climate change. Imagine that thing is to put everyone into these enormous, tall building cities and terraform the cleared Earth. Imagine the planet becomes this beautiful paradise outside of these sprawling cities, giving way to any number of formerly extinct species. Pretty cool, right? 

The real epicness lies in the malfunction of this terraforming tool. It wouldn’t be a fancy futuristic technology if there wasn’t something wrong with it. In this instance, mankind was obsessed with war and making terrifying advances in warfare. Imagine that. When things really started to go south, these machines were abandoned throughout the world, eventually decaying. Amazingly, this terraforming process found a way to create these monsters that are part machine, part animal by combining various DNA with the technical elements left in the Earth. It’s like something straight out of Godzilla, but more believable. The concept is staggering and makes for an exhilarating read. In fixing the world, humanity managed to create their greatest enemies. Poetic, isn’t it?

I was equally impressed by the extensive worldbuilding that continues throughout the novel. There’s a history of artificial intelligence alongside mankind, birthing all of this technology that gave us the ability to move beyond our planet. There’s the class struggle that would inevitably come from a super cramped mega-city. We also see this juxtaposition of a military society and a corporate society melded into an unhealthy concoction. Overall, the elements work together well to create a compelling story.

Review to be published on 8/7:
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In a high-tech, dystopian future, young soldiers will become fodder for certain death against the most dangerous foe the earth has ever faced. Where has it come from? How can it be stopped?

Told through the eyes of Maseo Jaytu, a young recruit on the run from the secrets of his past, he finds a sense of belonging to the group of misfit soldiers, each longing to leave a mark on a world who doesn’t see them with any value.

Tense, creative and raw, Joel Dane’s CRY PILOT the action is pure science fiction with a huge helping of humanity from the young soldiers facing certain death as they draw closer together and become their own special family. Heroes will die, corporate greed and the techno world will go on and still, only one man will discover the secret to defeating the enemy, but it could cost both him and his best friend their lives. 

Gritty, intriguing and mesmerizing, is this the world we are rushing forward to? A great read, a great escape, thanks to the talent of Joel Dane.

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Ace! This is my honest and voluntary review.
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I received an advance copy of this book via NetGalley.

By the description, I expected far-future sci-fi. Cry Pilot is that, and a whole lot more--like a cyberpunk and military scifi combination, all in an original take on post-climate apocalypse Earth.

Kaytu is a complicated young man trying to do right. He's a gutter rat, a former refugee, and he has set his eye on military service with one of the major corporations that holds dominion over Earth. With his background--which only emerges in perfectly-paced detail across the book--he's forced to take a more criminal route, which gets him assigned to be a cry pilot--essentially, a piece of meat dropped into an AI-driven mecha that does battle with other bio-machines that threaten to undo the resettlement and terraforming of the planet. Most cry pilots die. He does not--nor does the flighty drug addict with him. Together, they soon find themselves placed in different roles as they train to face a horrific threat unlike ever seen before.

With some scifi books with a far-future setting, it feels like the emphasis is on the world and tech and the characters are outright tropes. Not so here. Everyone feels vivid and alive. Kaytu's peers are an eclectic bunch, and as he became attached to them, so did I (a dangerous thing when they are facing some pretty nasty threats). The world is incredibly immersive and detailed, and it builds in just the right way; I never felt overwhelmed.  Not only is the tech advanced, but social constructs are radically different, too, but this is handled in a casual, natural way. Poly relationships are common (and make perfect sense, given the need for humanity to repopulate) and sexual preference is fluid.

I found the book to be absolutely enthralling. Not only is the story fantastic, but as a writer, I can only admire the elegant pacing of the world's construction. This is a book to point to as an example of how to do scifi right.
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Cry Pilot is the first volume in a brand new  new military science fiction series.  Whether you are taking  about training grunts for action in Southeast Asia, the deserts of Iraq, or in a future world, you always get the same sense of struggle to get through basic training, the camaraderie, and the triumphant battles.   With a futuristic landscape like this, comparisons to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Card’s Ender’s Game certainly are not amiss.  Nevertheless, the Cry Pilot universe is fresh, new, and invigorating.

The battle here is not in space, but on an earth destroyed by endless war.  The human race is ensconced  in small corporate enclaves and all around the earth and oceans are undergoing vast terraforming with the hope of bringing earth back to life.  But, here’s where it gets crazy because the terraforming agents have awakened all manner of artificial intelligence war machines that were buried deep in the earth and the oceans over the centuries of war.  And, these remotes have grown more sophisticated and more treacherous.  And, now there’s rumour of even more bizarre things that appear genetic rather than mechanical awakening.  
Meet lampreys and you’ve never met anything like these.

Katyu must put his past behind him as he volunteers the only way he can- by being a cry pilot for a CAV, a tentacled mechanical beast that craves human pilots to interface with and cannot do battle without that interface.  But, there’s a minuscule chance of surviving in a CAV and graduating to basic training.  Most CAV pilots are crushed within the structures when they do battle with remorts and are little more than sacrificial lambs being led to slaughter.  

This is a hard paced action-Packed battle novel that succceeds because it creates a believable world and interesting characters.  

Many thanks to the publishing house for providing an advanced copy for review.
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I started reading this while stuck in an auto shop waiting room that was not designed for the comfort of human beings, let me put it that way. Cars, maybe.

I mention that because I got sucked in so hard that when they called me two and a half hours later, I sat for an extra ten minutes because I had to find out how a certain scene ended. In spite of the blaring PA (which I didn't hear past about page three), the buzz and brrrr of pneumatic tools, and a plastic chair that had to have been designed by a torture chamber architect.

Training sequences are my jam, especially when the characterization is as terrific as exemplified here. Maseo Kaytu enlists in a corporation-run army in an all-or-nothing manner, and ends up with a bunch of other misfits, some of whom we get to know quite well, but all of them are distinctive--so distinctive it hurts when . . .

Put it this way. This is a high-octane military sf story, heavy on the weapons and action, which means an extremely high body count. Keeping it firmly this side of violence porn is how much Dane makes the reader care about the grunts around Maseo, and about the world, which is a weird but believable future in which the mess we've made of the planet is in the process of reverse--but the Terraforming, as it's called, has its own complex price.

Which includes rogue bioweapons.

How we humans are our own worst enemies doesn't escape exploration either on the personal level or the political. One of the most interesting questions asked in this book is "Are you a soldier or are you a patriot?" So much military SF assumes the two are one. 

There's resolution at the end of this book, while major threads are set up for a longer arc. I can't WAIT for the next. A funny, tense, vivid, hard-hitting but smart and thoughtful story, with cussing military-style that is entertainingly gender-blind at times. Terrific female characters made it just that much more awesome.

I got this through NetGalley, but I'll be snagging a print copy as soon as it comes out, as this goes on the reread shelf.
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