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Terms of Enlistment

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The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you're restricted to two thousand calories of badly flavored soy every day:

You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service.

With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price…and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.

345 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 14, 2013

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Marko Kloos

26 books2,825 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,731 reviews
Profile Image for Erin (PT).
561 reviews93 followers
May 26, 2013
Well, while I made it past the point where my reading pal (my husband) quit Terms of Enlistment (36% on Kindle, compared to his 24%), I'm also giving up the ghost on this book.

Terms of Enlistment isn't a terrible book. Which is, in and of itself, a sticking point. If it were a better book, or if it were a more hilariously bad book, I'd probably be more inclined to stick with it. But it's not good enough to keep my interest and it's not bad enough to trigger my train-wreck syndrome. What it is, is a pretty bog-standard Military SF book, without enough world-building, characterization or plain old charisma to motivate me to keep going. With some weird Othering of women and Blacks thrown in for lagniappe.

Marko Kloos is a capable writer. There's no phraseology here to make me swoon, but he communicates lucidly and with a good sense of visual/spatial dynamics, which is pretty crucial for SF in general and MilSF in particular. I never felt confused about what was going on. It's a minor nitpick that Kloos tends to use language very repetitively, using the exact same words/phrase to describe a thing over and over again, but not so much I wouldn't have kept reading if he had managed to capture my interest better. I was more thrown by his insistence of calling all the characters, collectively, either "guys" or "girls", which I could sort of handwave as a character trait, as his hero, Andrew Grayson, reminded me of a latter day Holden Caulfield, with all the socially stunted immaturity implied, but it still stuck out as weird and slightly unpleasant.

I felt his greater failing was in creating—or really failing to create—Andrew Grayson as a fully realized character. I was reading a review for a different book where the reviewer commented that the traits of the main character were unremarkable taken individually, but didn't hold up when put together. I feel the same way about Andrew Grayson. Though Grayson grew up in a poor, inner city environment, the language of his POV (especially at the outset) is stilted, over-educated, lacking in slang and idiom, lacking that lived-in feeling to imply that Grayson's life didn't begin the same moment the story did. This is especially notable because, once Grayson enters the military, he noticeably does pick up a more consistently conversant and natural manner of expression.

Similarly, though Grayson is apparently completely socially isolated and friendless in his civilian life (when leaving Boston—and though he's leaving both his parents behind—he states that he wouldn't feel a thing if Boston was obliterated in that moment; the only goodbyes he makes are to his parents & we are repeatedly told—even after he's in the military—how little he thinks about or cares about Boston), and though he comes across as the slightly sociopathic loner you might expect to show up at his school with an arsenal, once he gets into the military, Grayson has no awkwardness or problems making friends among his fellow recruits and effortlessly starts a romantic relationship with one of them; a relationship that—while, by necessity, very short in duration—lingers after they're separated by their post-Basic assignments and he reminisces and thinks about her in a way he thinks of no other person from his past, including his parents. Now, on the one hand, his father is described as your stereotypical abusive asshole, and, again, I can kind of hand wave his social/emotional disconnect as similarly stereotypical for an abused child…but then there would need to be a corresponding difficulty in making/maintaining relationships once he got into the military. But the complete social isolation and disconnect on one side of the equation and then a perfectly normal ability to socialize and form connections on the other, and the fact that Grayson is, in the military, actually a reasonably popular guy among his fellows does not hold up.

The book also has problems with race and gender. For example, of the three drill sergeants in charge of Grayson's squad, the two White sergeants are brisk and no-nonsense, allowing no chance for hanky-panky, but the one Black sergeant is known to sleep soundly and through the night, allowing slack on his shift. When Grayson is out of training and assigned to his 'real' team, Jackson, the one Black teammate is the one who is standoffish and "intimidating", and he can form no connection with her as he does with his White teammates. Further, Black characters are always called out by race while (presumable) Latin@s are only called out by their surnames and we have (to where I quit) no known Asian representation or of any other ethnicity.

I also think that some of this would be more excusable or understandable if Kloos had bothered to build up the characters to be anything more than Harris, the Black drill sergeant who sleeps, or Jackson, the intimidating Black teammate. Even with Andrew Grayson himself, there's not much there to grab onto. He has as much characterization as the avatar for a first person shooter video game…which is actually what much of this feels like. As I said to my husband, I know far more about Grayson's gun than I do about Grayson himself. Though he's formed this apparently deep connection with his fellow soldier…we don't even know her first name. Grayson always refers to her by her surname.

Speaking of gender… My first impression was that Kloos actually does a good job of not being sexist; his military is co-ed and fairly evenly split. The women are not shown as being any less capable or more poorly performing than the men. Initially—in the first chapters regarding Basic Training—Kloos doesn't necessarily distinguish much between the men and women. But, as the story went on, just as Kloos felt the need to draw attention to which characters were Black at every opportunity, he seemed to feel the need to increasingly draw attention to which characters were women, and in the most annoying, patronizing of ways:
"…then Stratton is by my side, and he clocks the second Marine with a textbook jab right to the tip of the chin. To my left, two Marines try to tackle Hansen, whose ponytail bounces as she sidesteps one of them gracefully before kneeing the second Marine…"

It's never anything overtly offensive and any one instance probably wouldn't bother me, but it becomes a problem in aggregate and one that increases in frequency as time goes on.

And, bottom line, there's nothing here of what Stephen King calls the gimme. We don't know enough about the world or its politics to give a crap about this story politically or to be excited by any new, cool, alien environments. We don't know enough about Grayson—and what we do know is (for me, at least) kind of repellant—to really care about what happens to him. We don't know anyone else in the story. And the military stuff isn't original or interesting enough to geek out over the cool tech or anything. When I was a younger reader, the excitement of just having a book to read was enough. Now that I'm older, more jaded, and have more disposable income to buy my own books, I find a book needs to work harder to give me a reason to keep going. Because there are always other books.

This book has no reason.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,813 followers
January 5, 2015
Okay...wow. This one may just go onto my favorites shelf...brain candy...mind junk-food at it's finest. I wish I could get hold of every military science fiction fan here and say, "don't miss this one".

This book was recommended to me a good while back and it looked good. I ordered it from Amazon...but since I bought it, I had to move all the library books I had waiting to be read ahead of it. See they had to be returned. So last night I finally started it (even though it's been on my "currently reading list" for some time). I finally put it down at 3:00AM because I really needed to get some sleep. I finished it today, bought the 2 short stories set in this "universe" for my Kindle and plan to download the only other novel set there from Audible.

I'm giving this the highest recommendation I can give. If you like science fiction, military science fiction, space opera (though I would not really call this space opera as that tends to bring to mind more "pulp", "fantasy" type reads) as I said, don't miss this one.

From the word go we get involved in this future Earth. it's very plausible and sets us into the novel. We follow the protagonist as he works to "get out" of the "life trap" he's in taking one of the few (One of the only?) routes out of that life available to him, or to anyone in his situation.

Also to anyone who's been in the military his experience will be...recognizable. It may be the future but it's a future that is as noted earlier very plausible. You will more than likely get involved in the life of this character and the lives of those around him. You'll get caught in the plot, in the world, in it all.

This is I believe a somewhat exceptional book.

In case you didn't pick it up...I like this book. I'd say as I said above, if you like science fiction, if you like military science fiction don't miss this one. I'll go so far as to say if you like military fiction, techno thrillers don't miss this one.

Highest recommendation.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,966 followers
February 9, 2017
Surprisingly awesome, clearly-written, endlessly fascinating mil-sf, where it's not enough when just one or two things go wrong and things seem completely out of control, but where the entire population of humanity has to suffer right along with you.

Was anyone so bright-eyed and innocent before signing up? Alas, I'm reminded of the shiny adaptation of Starship Troopers when I started getting into this book, and then it seemed to take a turn for the right-wing worst when the fighting against the welfare state began, but no, things didn't stay that simple.

Some things are bound to go right, but conflict is truly the name of this game, and it's no fun just fighting against ourselves.

Let's get us some ALIENS!!!!

Okay. So I think I've just gone off the deep end and have just admitted to Really Liking a Mil-SF title. Not just enjoying, but actively Liking. :) I'm gonna hop on the sequels rather sooner than later, even. :)

Now where's my soundtrack?
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,262 reviews222 followers
October 6, 2016
Andrew Grayson is a "welfare rat" living in a Public Residence Cluster (PRC) which is one of several vast slums in the North American Commonwealth (NAC). The NAC is in an endless cold war with the Sino-Russian Alliance (SRA), and the pressure of the endless expansion of new terraforming projects means that times are tough and acronyms rule the Earth.

Ok, acronyms don't rule the Earth. But this is military SF. That means military-grade weaponized acronyms. You have been warned (YHBW).

Anyway, Grayson's only option to better his circumstances is to join the NAC Armed Forces and try to get into one of the off-world military services like the NAC Navy or the Marines. So he joins up, and in a truly dystopian twist, ends up fighting against rioters from other PRCs.

The first part of this book is unremarkable with a fairly forgettable boot camp sequence (another MilSF staple). It improves with the action through the urban combat in the Detroit PRC but really takes off (ha!) once Grayson gets into space. And what he finds there should make for a very interesting rest-of-the-series.

There's some fairly uncomfortable scenes of some truly excessive force towards civilians in the middle of the book. The protagonist feels a kinship with the people that he's fighting, and he completely understands the reasons why they're rioting, but once the fight is on and government-backed troops are sent in against a government-run slum, there is almost no hesitation in causing mass casualties. It's hard to see where the author is going with this, whether it's a condemnation of the militarization of policing, or a glorification of it. Realistically, there's a bit of both, and it feels a bit out of place compared to the first and last parts of the book.

The last part of the book takes a very different turn away from dystopian Earth and towards a different emerging conflict and a very different role for Grayson. It will be interesting to see if the rest of the books in the series revisit life on Earth in the context of the new conflict.

Rating is difficult here. If it was just the last part, I think it'd be a clear 4 stars. With the dull first part and the really morally ambiguous middle presented as heroism, I think it needs to go down to 3 stars. But its piqued my interest, and I will be continuing on.
Profile Image for Richard.
Author 159 books546 followers
November 8, 2013
This book really had potential with the premise of someone escaping poverty through military service; if there had been any real character development.

It was as if every time the main character could have been faced with some adversity to overcome, the author just whisked it away without any challenge. Get into the highly competitive military? No problem, just go to the enlistment center. Basic training can drop any enlistee at the drop of the hat? Push over drill instructors and the protagonist waltzes through basic with no problems. Transferred to a hardened combat unit as the FNG? The squad mates practicably rub Greyson's feet when he arrives. A pointless excursion against overmatched rebels in the Balkans followed by a decent Blackhawk Down sequence, and then Greyson has to deal with some uppity MI officer, and he's saved by his squad leader and runs away to the navy. Yawn!

In the Navy, he breezes through tech school (which made me wonder why he was selected as a grunt if his computer acumen is so high, even more curious because he grew up with little to no education) and joins up with his basic training girlfriend. Then the rest of the book just sleep walks through some first contact boringness.

Greyson isn't challenged! He doesn't develop. There's no compelling narrative beyond "Guy joins military." I'm pretty sure this is why the book is self-published, as the writing is above average and smooth. A publisher/editor would have rejected this because there's no there, there. I think a good editor could have pulled out the story lurking beneath the waves.

I see a lot of "Starship Troopers" references in the reviews, and let me tell you something about "Starship Troopers;" that book said something. I said something about citizenship, service and morality. This book says nothing.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,435 reviews828 followers
March 21, 2019
I don’t usually tolerate sci fi of this type very well. I like character led soft edged stuff. This was a military type sci fi and I LOVED it! Maybe finally I feel brave enough to dip my toe in a bit deeper!
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
795 reviews3,611 followers
January 31, 2023
Oldschool military sci-fi with good characterization, focus on drill and combat missions, and much scope to rise in the following parts.

Slow but good
Towards the end, the military training and first battles turn into more big action, establishing the enemy in a big cliffhanger, and preparing the ground for total escalation. And as the ratings for the other parts show, it seems to be a marvelous disaster, maybe even keeping continuing the social criticism with very good killing fun.

Strong focus on dystopian worldbuilding
Not just as an opener and eyecatcher, but with many reminders about economic inequality and slums being the newest living feng shui trend, Kloos criticizes by showing a very possible future or, let´s face it, reality in many awful places. This is a bit exceptional for military sci-fi, which often prefers to focus on the evil side of militarism, often in love with fascism and dictatorships, instead of satirizing the final results of public private partnership military industrial complex overkills of Friedmans´wet neoliberal dreams.

Maybe a bit too military for my taste
I don´t know if I´ll continue the series, I just don´t get my full kick out of miliary sci-fi anymore (I´m now more into save ane sane sex and violence these days, not just one alone), especially in contrast to big future worldbuilding with space opera multi alien fractions, Clarketech, hard sci-fi elements, and especially the still to explore lands of classic and new social sci fi, etc. There are just too many genre conventions that limit the possibilities of topics to deal with, not to speak of all the stereotypes readers want (and writers have to put in for that reason) to have in their drill and kill mix, which makes the whole genre the closest candidate for the sci-fi redundancy department. But don´t get me wrong, still a great subgenre and a great work of it, but just not enough unleashing of the full scale of sci-fi possibilities and new ideas.

Oh, and, if you´re interested in trivial personal drivel and preferences, the BDSM joke was partly true.
Pranked! Again. Just joking. Or not… how mysterious…

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,867 reviews16.5k followers
September 19, 2022
The ghost of Bob Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, Lyn and Chief Petty Officer (retired) Ralph Davis sit in a café in the AFTERLIFE, watching Aliens and discussing Marko Kloos’ 2013 novel Terms of Enlistment.

Joe: Um, just to be clear, I’m still alive.

Ralph: Me too, this is weird, and I’m really not even sure why I’m here. I’m not much of a reader, especially not science fiction.

Lyn: Chief, you were my boot camp instructor in Cape May, NJ in 1992. Remember me?

Ralph: Uh, no, not really, sorry. Did you end up making the Coast Guard a career?

Lyn: No, did five years active, three in the reserve and then I moved over to the Army National Guard. Deployed in 05-06. I did retire in 2020.

Ralph: Army? Oh my god! Did I not teach you anything?

Bob: If you ladies are done cuddling, let’s talk about Kloos’ book. Not bad, huh? How does it rate in comparison to Starship Troopers?

Joe: Or Forever War?

Lyn: Troopers and Forever War are the templates upon which military SF is drawn. Kloos uses his own military experience in Germany to help him make this a better than average excursion into this sub-genre.

Joe: Bob, when you published ST in 1959, how much of your military training and experience did you use in your research and narrative?

[On the screen, Bill Paxton shouts “Game over, man!”]

Ralph: I love that scene.

Bob: Very much, while I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1929, and I did not see the same combat experience as you guys, my martial experience guided my thoughts and writing for the rest of my life. Joe, you have the most combat experience, having gone to Vietnam, what about you?

Joe: Of course I used that experience to guide my writing. But whereas I think that you, to some degree, romanticized warfare, and the military – industrial complex, my books, based upon my combat experience, are decidedly anti-war.

Lyn: I think Kloos draws inspiration from you both, his Terms of Enlistment makes a passable, and very readable, observation of and exploration of a future setting military SF novel. His social commentary is similar to Joe’s in that the future for civilians is not pretty.

Bob: I’ve always disagreed that I romanticized the military, it was an honest appraisal of how the military life would fit into my future world building and was actually a response to Eisenhower’s suspension of nuclear testing. Like Roosevelt said, walk softly but carry a big stick.

Lyn: Kloos does stick with the basic MilSF format, especially with the inclusion of the basic training chapters.

Ralph: Not a bad description. Since Rome, or even before, experienced military leaders have worked to transform recruits into fighting men - and women. It’s a job helping pups to grow up, Kloos does pretty good showing that is still needed in the future.

Joe: In Forever War I spent some time showing that military service is a viable way out of a depressingly unstable and unsustainable civilian world of moral depravity, with responses to overpopulation and staggering unemployment.

Bob: Much of the criticism Kloos has received about his writing is the supposed right-wing leanings of his message, which seems to target and criticize centralized governments and the problems inherent in a welfare state. We even see some evidence of government propaganda.

Joe: Well, in both of our world buildings we contrast a very structured, rigid military system with resources, against a civil society that struggles. The early scenes where the new recruits get to eat some real food, could have been written throughout history.

Bob: That’s true, an army travels on its stomach, gotta feed and keep healthy the troops. Back in the 20s especially, many rural citizens, and some urban too, found plenty of good food to eat on the mess tables but not in civil society.

Joe: But by making those comparisons, weren’t we both forming a reaction to government subsidization? The same society that cannot adequately feed and house its populace does manage to feed the troops, the class of citizens who protect, but also enforce laws.

Bob: There you go, class distinctions!

Joe: Well, sure. Because they exist; in Troopers, you even advocate that only citizens, mainly veterans, can have full rights.

Bob: I was not advocating for that type of society, that was just a part of the world building, a logical extension of earlier policy changes that had resulted in the world we find in Starship Troopers.

Lyn: The distinction between civilian populace and military policy enforcement is a big part of Kloos narrative, one scene, hell almost a third of the book, is lifted out of Black Hawk Down, but the troops were not in Mogadishu but a third world Detroit.

Joe: This kind of societal collapse is something that was a big part of Forever War – the military is an integral part of the larger society, so problems in civil society is reflected by and dealt with by veterans who are a part of the culture but also a part of the government. I showed how the veterans were insulated from the rest of the human civilization but they were still a part of the larger social and political changes. Kloos does some of this too, but maybe without the gravity that Bob or I had.

Ralph: That middle part, like Mogadishu, was confusing, a different morality than the rest of the book.

Bob: Yes, I like what Kloos is doing but he was kind of all over the place. I did like that middle part, the juxtaposition between this recent recruit, fighting people who would only a few months before have been his neighbors, and the larger world building was very thought provoking, similar to what Joe was doing in Forever War.

Lyn: Yes, but it was good enough that I’m curious about his later books in this series and wonder if he’ll return to earth for more of the welfare state riots, that was more interesting to me than all the going to space business, and terraforming colonists and the bug fights. Kloos looks like he is setting up a bildungsroman as we follow our hero along a career in the military; but the welfare state narrative was most appealing to me, and I’d like to read more about that.

[all watch as Sigourney Weaver fights the Alien queen]

Ralph: So how do we get out of here?

Lyn: We can leave anytime, Bob has to stay. He’s dead.

Bob: Joe, I’ll see you soon.

Joe: What the hell is that supposed to mean????

Profile Image for Scott.
290 reviews301 followers
March 22, 2019
I very nearly didn't finish this book. Around page 100 I faltered. Fifty or so pages on things began to improve, and the story became bearable, if not particularly exciting.

In so many ways, this book is a repackaged Starship Troopers; the story follows a recruit through basic training, and eventually (quite eventually!) into space and a war with some very bug-like aliens. However, Heinlein's fifty-six year old novel is a landmark, innovative for its time and infused with Heinlein's political views. Terms of enlistment lacks both innovation and anything much to say.

The central character (aptly named Grayson - a descriptive name for a man with few defining features) escapes from the vast, soylent green-like slums of earth into the military, where he endures a textbook yelling-drill-sergeant, get-down-and-give-me-twenty training regime. His potentially interesting slum background is never evident as he is well spoken, oddly well-read and seems to have neither friends nor any connection at all to where he spent most of his life. Within a couple of months he is part of a squad killing hundreds of rioters in a slum similar to the one he grew up in, and he barely bats a sociopathic eyelid at his transformation from oppressed to oppressor.

After the slum riot section the story begins to pick up a bit, but it's still fairly bland stuff. There's a thin romance, some aliens, and some not very impressive tech that would perhaps have been futuristic in Heinlein's day. Ho hum.

If you're looking For military flavored sci-fi with an edge and something interesting to say I recommend you explore writers like Heinlein and Haldeman.

Two bog-standard stars out of five.

Note: In an earlier version of this review I confused the book and movie of Starship Troopers - in the movie men and women serve together in the military while this is not so in the book. Thanks to Steve Kinnard for spotting my error!
Profile Image for Mr. Matt.
288 reviews82 followers
March 21, 2015
This is another one of those books that I had somehow picked up. I really have no idea how it wound up in my kindle's slush pile of unread books. (To be fair, I have a bit of an Amazon problem). Regardless, I picked it up. I was in the mood for something else. From the cover it looked like another 'ships of the line in space' type of book emphasizing desperate ship-to-ship battles in the cold depths of space. I was wrong. Dead wrong. And expectations were well exceeded.

Terms of Enlistment follows Andrew Grayson into the North American Commonwealth armed forces. Born in one of the massive slums in the Boston metroplex, the military offers the poor and the desperate (roughly 90% of the population) a ticket out. In the military, he'll eat real food, get a chance to go off world, and - after his 5-year enlistment period - he can cash out and buy a nice little place in the suburbs. So far so good, I'm interested.

The story follows Grayson through basic training and then to his first assignment - into the Territorial Army. Andrew becomes a grunt, occasionally fighting the Sino-Russians, but more often than not suppressing civil disobedience in domestic slums. That's right; the military of the not-so distant future spends more time crushing domestic trouble than protecting the people. With a steady diet of bland, more or less manufactured food, and no (or few) jobs, the people in the slums have little hope. And people without hope have nothing to lose. Riots are frequent and deadly - as Grayson learns when he is injured in a giant Detroit riot that is more or less street to street urban warfare. Injured, and accused of using excessive force, Grayson transfers to the Navy.

My interest had begun to wane at this point and then the other shoe dropped. And good golly Miss Molly, what a shoe that was! This book had been rocking along at a steady, solid three stars and then everything changes. Suddenly I was riveted. Several things went through my mind. The first was WTF is going on? The second was appreciation for the author's creativity and the direction of the story. I like surprises and this one surprised me. I thought the book was plodding along in one direction and then *pow* it completely changes. And it changes in a way that makes sense and fits within the author's world.

On the note of world building, I was also impressed with the author's dark and frankly dystopian view of the future. With the world's population measuring 30 billion, the world is not a warm and fuzzy place. Large swathes of the population exist in depressing urban slums that more closely resemble prisons than housing units. The police and the military are feared rather than loved or respected. The environment is in terrible shape and people often wear masks to filter out the pollution. Only the truly wealthy have a semblance of a nice, rural life. And the states of the world do not sit around, hold hands and sing songs together. The world roughly resembles Orwell's 1984, with massive states locked into a shadowy conflict with one another. It's a dark place.

Four stars out of five. Lots of points for originality and catching me off guard. If you enjoy some military science-fiction, this is well worth the read.
Profile Image for David.
Author 18 books336 followers
July 13, 2014
Marko Kloos is another one of those self-published SF authors who found an unexpected following, hence my discovering this book as an Audible deal of the day. It was, while not epic or on the level of one of the better works of Heinlein or Pournelle or another big-name military SF author, a nice treat.

Terms of Enlistment shows its very obvious Heinlein influences right away - Andrew Grayson is not exactly Johnny Rico, being a slum-dweller who joins the military for three squares and a shot at an enlistment payout if he survives his five-year hitch. But the training and the ground-pounder action is quite reminiscent of Starship Troopers. That said, it's Starship Troopers without much military or political philosophy, and in fact the "North American Commonwealth" that the troopers serve is a rather skeletal setting. The military is divided into Army, Marines, and Navy, and while Grayson wants to go to space, it's the Territorial Army he winds up in, rescuing embassy employees from civil unrest and quashing riots in tenements like those Grayson grew up in.

This futuristic military is completely coed, so Grayson falls in love with a Navy-bound enlistee who becomes a pilot, and through a rather contrived set of circumstance, he is able to get a service transfer and then get assigned to her vessel.

Until this point, the book had been a rather flat sequence of events, full of action but very little plot beyond the main character's ambitions. Then we get to leave Earth, and if the ending is even more contrived and improbable, it does throw a major twist into the story and set it up for a sequel.

Overall, an unexpected gem which I recommend to all space opera fans, especially if you like military SF. Kloos actually seems to know something about the military and writes convincingly about training, different branches, ranks, and equipment, something a lot of SF authors don't do so well at convincingly portraying.
Profile Image for Brent.
348 reviews144 followers
May 28, 2022
Surprisingly good.

The author nails the details basic training and inter-service rivalry in way that indicates personal experience.

Establishing this realism at the beginning goes a long way to keep the story grounded and believable.

I'm looking forward to the whole series.
Profile Image for Daniel.
753 reviews72 followers
September 16, 2016
I još jedna knjiga di sam podeljenog mišljenja.

Sa jedne strane imamo dosta dobro pisanje sa interesantnim likovim, pričom koja ima dobar tempo i skoro nikada nije dosadno, i glavnog lika koji je odličan narator.

Sa druge strane priča koja je ispričana je manje više već poznata i na momente se dobija deja vu osećaj.

Tako da sumnjam da ću nastaviti serijal iako je sama knjiga bila zabavna.
Profile Image for Timothy Boyd.
6,551 reviews32 followers
November 10, 2022
Wow what a great military SiFi book. The writer really captures the emotional feel of service life. Probably helps that he is a vet himself. Great beginning to what I expect to be an excellent series. Very recommended
Profile Image for Gary.
442 reviews185 followers
March 27, 2016
Terms of Enlistment offers a pretty depressing vision of the future, where most of the people on a vastly overpopulated earth are herded into massive welfare project housing and are forced to live on subsistence rations. The only way out for these "welfare rats" (aside from winning the lottery for off-planet colonization) is to join the military, which is then deployed against the very neighborhoods they grew up in, in order to keep the population in line.
Kloos is a very talented writer, a gifted visual storyteller with a good grasp of both character and action. I especially liked how quickly (and tragically) his protagonist's moral compass is reset by his first combat experience. I like Kloos' sense of humor, too - mostly made up of dramatic irony and visual contrast, rather than the relentless snarking that passes for comedy in genre fiction these days.
For all its merits, Terms of Enlistment never quite lives up its potential. The book is consistently pretty good, but never great. The last act takes a sharp ninety degree turn from everything that came before, and while I am okay with what happens in theory, in execution it left me out in the cold a little. Again, the character development and action are all perfectly convincing from start to finish - adequately engrossing but never really enthralling. I'd like to read more works by this author but as of this moment I'm not sure if I want to continue with this particular series.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,630 reviews325 followers
October 8, 2022
This is a pretty good Mil-SF debut by Marko Kloos, a new-to-me novelist. Many standard tropes of the genre, but brought (reasonably) up to date: A tough kid in a hopeless urban slum, he passes the test to join the military, does well in Boot Camp . . . He finds a GF! They plan to keep in touch, but he is Army (ground-pounders), she will be in the Navy Elite: a shuttle pilot. Then, the military Good Fairy blesses the kid: he wangles an assignment to her ship! Whoa.

The tired old frigate arrives on its milk-run to an obscure colony world, to find -- an alien invasion in progress! 60-ft tall aliens, who are (surprise!) very hard to kill! The Cavalry (actually, a naval task force that just happened to be nearby) arrives in the nick of time....

Do you detect a certain deja vu here? You say you've seen this rodeo before? Still, it's (mostly) good fun, even if pretty much cliché-city. . . I liked it. Recommended by Sherwood Smith, & Jo Walton likes the whole series. She's up to #7! Our library doesn't have #2....

The biggest problem I had with the book (and the series) is the outdated sociology of the Population Bomb, that human population will keep increasing ad infinitum. This looks increasingly unlikely: see my review of "Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline": https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Ryan.
270 reviews58 followers
April 10, 2022
This was okay. I prefer my military SF to be space battles, not ground troops stuff. With ground battles there's got to be a focus on the mental toll of killing people which I don't think ToE did well enough. The enemy wasn't well fleshed out and the reasons for the conflicts were thin. You can get away with all of that if you've got the style of a Scalzi to carry it but this isn't in the same league of Old Man's War.

If there are any surprises in this story it's in what was left out, not what was included.
A combination of the writing style and the narrators voice had me picturing Malcolm Reynolds as the protagonist, but it wasn't a good thing as it mostly made me yearn for a ragtag crew for him to exchange witty banter with.
There's something in the vicinity of commentary of government enforced poverty to provide military institutions with fresh meat young recruits, but there's little pontificating about that as it only gets in the way of the run and gun action.
The regular updates of remaining ammo during one conflict made the story feel like a computer game or litrpg

Shit. This doesn't sound great, does it? If you like military SF then this will scratch the itch when you get it. If you don't like military SF then ToE doesn't provide you with any reason to change your mind.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,150 reviews1,119 followers
March 25, 2017
Dear Marko,

First of all, welcome to the list of my favorite authors. Here, have a drink. If your next books are as good as the first one, you can even join the likes of Martin and Corey in the elite section (I totally just made that up).

Anywho, thanks for writing such a page-turning book with lots of great actions. I see some Heinlein influence and noticed lots of references to both military history (Shughart and the drop ship thing, very Mogadishu) and also other sci-fi books (Shrike ships!).

Moreover, I must applaud your ability to create a fast paced story with a clear sense of space, so your readers won't get lost despite the hectic mobility of the characters during the combat scenes.

Speaking about characters, I hope you put more depth to Grayson. He was an okay character, but it feels a bit too goody two-shoes. You did, via his POV, explain that he's just trying his best (and most of the time he was among the best) but I just need some flaws in the lead character, especially since there is only one.

Reading this book is like curling in my bed with a cup of Flores coffee listening to James Bay while it's raining outside. It just feels like home.

So, yeah, thanks for that.

Profile Image for The Captain.
1,073 reviews372 followers
March 14, 2019
Ahoy there mateys! I bought this book back on 11/26/18 when I saw that the Kindle price had dropped to $1.99. I have been hearing good things about this series and so thought I would give it a shot. And turns out that I really enjoyed book one!

This book is a military sci-fi set in the year 2108. America is a commonwealth where the poor live in massive welfare cities where violence is the norm. Moving up in society is basically impossible. Andrew Grayson is one of the welfare rats who can’t help but dream of a different life. One of the ways to achieve his goal is a lottery ticket for a colony world in space. The odds are abysmal and the system might be rigged. The other is the military. Andrew’s test scores are good enough to earn him a slot in military boot camp. He just has to survive it.

I really, really enjoyed Andrew’s story. While Andrew can be self-absorbed, I was rooting for him from the beginning. I really liked the plausible version of the future envisioned by the author. This book isn’t a deep exploration of culture, politics, or morals but it is entertaining. Plus there be aliens! It is fluffy and fun and full of action. It was a quick read that completely held me attention and I read it in one sitting. I don’t have a lot to say about this book other than that.

The only real negative is that there are 5 more books in the series! Yikes. I will have to find time to read them all. Arrrr!

Check out me other reviews at https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 168 books37.5k followers
April 17, 2013
If you enjoy the subgenre of military SF in which a loser enlists and makes his way into a career, this one is for you. Engagingly written, super fast paced, sympathetic characters, and believable military, right down to the cadences and the cursing. I meant to read a chapter or two before bed, and ended up reading half the night.
Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
691 reviews98 followers
August 1, 2022
Mostly taking place on a futuristic and overpopulated Earth, we meet Andrew Grayson and follow his enlistment into the army, eventual transfer into the Navy in space, encounter a lot of danger and explosions and army shenanigans, then finally end on first contact with a hostile alien race.

The pace never lets up in between those events either: it was hard to stop reading!

While Kloos doesn't do anything new or particularly special, this is a fast paced, utterly action packed book with all the military humor and happenings. I like reading military sci-fi and fantasy when it is written by soldiers. Kloos delivered something that felt like realistic enlistment complete with bureaucratic nightmares, while embracing all sorts of futuristic technology and interstellar travel.

I hate to admit I miss the stupid ass stories my exes used to tell, so I am drawn to the military stories (especially sci-fi) since I'm just so used to that language. Maybe that mixed with growing up on Star Trek and classic scifi draws me to these books but I will read them all day.

Character wise, I like what I saw of Grayson and Halley and the others.  No one comes to military sci-fi for the characters but there are a whole cast of side characters and people we meet along the way that add a lot of personality and banter to the book. Sgt Fallon was amazing 🤣

I usually hate first person point of view but here, it's ok.  It's one of the reasons I couldn't get to five stars but still, I didn't hate it.

“At ease,” Sergeant Fallon says. “Jesus, don’t those instructors over at the depot remove the corn cobs before they send you off into real life?”

“I don’t remember having been issued any sort of vegetables, Staff Sergeant,” I reply, and Sergeant Fallon chuckles.

“A smart-ass. As if we didn’t have enough of those already. I think you’ll fit in just fine.”

From boot camp to destruction of a colonized world, Terms of Enlistment never let up on the action. I can't wait to follow more of Grayson and Halley's adventures. I listened to the second half on audio and liked it too, either format comes recommended!

**Narrated by Luke Daniels, from Brilliance Audio, the audiobook is about 9.5 hours long.  I liked his clear enunciations and many different voices.  Daniels added a lot to the banter, personality of the characters, and book in general**

Overall, I recommend for fans of the genre!
Profile Image for Sineala.
712 reviews
April 16, 2013
This had been recced to me as good self-published mil-SF in the vein of Starship Troopers, and since I can always use a good military-SF Bildungsroman, I decided to pick this up. Hey, it was cheap. Much like Heinlein, it is compulsively readable; I opened the file intending to read the first couple chapters, and then the next time I looked up it was 4 am and I was halfway through. Yeah. Unfortunately, it also shares one of (for me) the flaws of Heinlein, which is that it's very good at taking you on a journey that, when you stop to look back at it, you wonder if it's really a journey you wanted to be taking.

It is also, basically, two plots pasted together and oh my God is the first one better than the second. Andrew Grayson is a resident of the dystopian welfare slums of Boston in the dystopian future -- I, uh, mostly tried not to think about whether this could reflect the author's views on social safety nets, because it was just going to make me sad -- and the only way out is joining the military. We then get Andrew getting all trained up and made into a soldier... but he doesn't get the space posting he wants. Nope, he ends up in the army on Earth, quelling riots among the disaffected poor, which is about when you start to wonder what the hell went wrong with the future in this book and why does the populace of Detroit mysteriously have military weapons and training to be killing them with?

I wanted to read the book that answered that question, and that dealt with his feelings about not being able to go home again (for various reasons that become clear to him later). That would be interesting! And different! Instead, we get a whole new plot. Andrew ends up in space after all and gets to shoot way more stuff on shiny new planets, and frankly that is a book I have already read before. Many times. Also, I kind of thought using ship security cameras to watch your girlfriend was incredibly incredibly creepy and not in any way endearing, so, uh, there's that.

But, like I said, it is really really readable and if you have a thing for mil-SF you should read this! I will definitely be picking up the sequel, because I assume there's going to be one.
Profile Image for Rob.
848 reviews535 followers
October 9, 2016
Executive Summary: A good, but not great start to this series. I liked it enough to continue on.

Audiobook: Luke Daniels is a fantastic narrator as always, however I tend to associate him with lighter/fun type stories, so it took a bit to get used to him narrating a military sci-fi/more serious story.

Full Review
I picked this one up on a daily deal. I'm not a huge military fiction fan, but I like space opera and I was hoping to get some of that here.

Since those were my expectations coming in, I found the first two thirds a bit underwhelming. We start in a near future Earth. Things are bleak. The planet is in bad shape and we've begun colonizing other worlds. Spots on colony ships are hard to come by. Many people are living in welfare funded slums.

The protagonist joins the military in an attempt to escape his life. We get a pretty generic and mostly forgettable boot camp story arc. Then I think even more than our protagonist, I'm super disappointed that he's staying on earth. The middle arc is never really explained though it is at least more interesting than the first arc.

Finally in the third arc things start to pick up. It was here that the book really started to grab my interest. Now that we have the space opera type story I was hoping for when I first picked up this book, I was finally enjoying it.

The world building is pretty bleak. You can tell the author has a military background. It also seems to me he has a very low opinion of poor people, especially those on welfare. I found myself conflicted at times between the protagonist's plight and the supposed antagonists during the middle arc. None of it was very well explained though. Maybe if it had, I would have been less conflicted. The protagonist isn't always likable initially, but he grew on me as the story went on.

Overall I enjoyed this book, and it got better as it went on. This gives me hope the next book will be better, and I plan to check it out at some point in the near future.
Profile Image for Aristotle.
631 reviews68 followers
December 9, 2020
"I am Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, your senior drill instructor. From now on you will speak only when spoken to, and the first and last words out of your filthy sewers will be "Sir". Do you maggots understand that?"

"Sir, yes Sir."

Like Full Metal Jacket this book had two parts to it.
Part one was Andrew Grayson going to Army boot camp, which was a walk in the park, then on to real action. An embassy evac, this time the helicopters didn't crash in the desert(Iran), and a scene from Black Hawk Down.

Part two was Andrew transferring to the Space Navy and running into an alien species bent on destroying the human settlers on a distant planet. Which was the better of the two stories.

This is very very basic storytelling. We got to know Andrew a little better in the second half of the book. An effortless brisk read with a good ending so i will get book two.

"Gump! What's your sole purpose in this army?"

"To do whatever you tell me, drill sergeant!""
Profile Image for  Simply Sam ツ.
579 reviews78 followers
February 5, 2017
I've not been doing a great job keeping up with reviews lately. Life, ya know?

So I'm keeping this short and real.

This was a lot of fun to read/listen to, and a big factor in my enjoyment was the fact that it totally reminded me of Starship Troopers (the movie, not the book--I own the book but I've never read it) and I LOVE Starship Troopers. I rarely re-read or re-watch anything. It's just not in my nature to be sentimental in regards to things like that. But of course there are exceptions. There are always exceptions. Starship Troopers is one of them. I will re-watch the heck out of that movie. It's fun and silly and gritty and gory and in the end the good guys ultimately win. This book has that same feel. There's humor and action and that same camaraderie. It won me over. And when they encountered the alien species I just wanted to say, "It's some kind of brain bug." But of course, I didn't because it isn't completely like Starship Troopers. Sheesh.

As much as I liked this book, I did have two issues while reading it.

First, I didn't feel like there was a ton of world building here, at least not in regards to the life and conditions on Earth. I feel like it was literally just in the background and no real depth of detail was offered.

My second issue was with the aliens themselves. I couldn't wrap my head around how we were told the acted and what we were told they looked like and then relate that to the technology and resources they seemed to possess. It just didn't quite mach up in my head for me for some reason.

Of course, this is only the first book in the series, so I'm sure there's plenty more to be revealed, so in the scheme of things, those two issues aren't really too big of a deal.

What you should take away is this: if you like the film Starship Troopers (minus a bit of the action though the general feel is the same) then you should absolutely give this a shot.

Profile Image for Bee.
393 reviews3 followers
April 22, 2014
Surprisingly good Space Marine type military Sci-Fi. I enjoyed it very much. Had many of the hallmarks I enjoy from books like John Scalzi's Old Man's War (luckily Kloos is a MUCH better writer), and John Ringo. Likable characters, some decent humour, interesting aliens. Good military Sci-Fi with a peppering of social commentary. I'm already hunting down the sequel.
Profile Image for Brian Durfee.
Author 6 books1,479 followers
July 6, 2019
Surprisingly f****ing awesome novel! Best military sci-fi since Enders Game & Old Man's War. Picked it up from Amazon on a whim just to add more items to my order and get the free shipping. When it arrived I read it on my back porch under the stars from cover-to-cover in one sitting. Ordered the other 5 paperbacks from Amazon right then & there. And qualified for more free shipping. Ya
23 reviews4 followers
March 6, 2014
"Of all the metroplexes in the country, Detroit is the worst."

I'm going to have a problem with a book when I find a sentence like that in it. Why is it always Detroit? Hasn't Detroit suffered enough? Hundreds of years in the future, Detroit STILL is the poorest, most violent city in North America? Why can't the shitty metroplex be Winnipeg? Or Saint Louis? Or Houston?

Despite having pissed off this girl from the D, the book did have some redeeming qualities. As others have mentioned, the action scenes are really well written. For the most part, you can picture the spaces in your head and really see the events as they're unfolding, and this does a lot to boost the enjoyment of an otherwise lacklustre and soulless story.

The story is told from the perspective of Andrew Grayson, around 18 years old, who enlists in the military to escape his life of extreme poverty and hopelessness. His fervent hope is to be posted to a starship, so that he can leave Earth and his old life behind forever. We follow him through his initial enlistment, boot camp, and approximately 8 months of his first year of military service.

I had a real problem with the characterizations in this book, and the protagonist is no exception. We're in the head of Grayson as he relays his first-person narrative, but I don't feel I really know him. For one thing, his thoughts at times totally contradict each other: when he's living in the Boston Public Residence Complex (a mega-crowded, desperately poor government housing project) with his mom, he appears to love her enough to take the trouble to make sure she will have something special (a bit of real food) after he's gone, but then when he's aboard the shuttle taking off from Boston and heading to boot camp, he doesn't bother to look out the window at his home falling away forever. Rather, he tells us, "If the Sino-Russian Alliance nuked the place right this moment, and I saw the fireball light up the night sky behind the shuttle, I wouldn't feel a thing." Uh, what? Your mom's down there, dude!

Then later, during his first posting to an army base in Ohio, his unit responds to a "welfare riot" in Detroit, a situation that quickly descends into chaos when the troops are vastly outnumbered by well-armed, ruthlessly efficient rioters. During the battle of Detroit, it is emphasized several times that the rioters have more sophisticated weapons than one would expect if it were just your average everyday welfare riot. But when the battle's over, there's no follow-up to that idea. Grayson seems to never think about it again. Why mention it, if it's not going to lead to a revelation about some secret conspiracy to arm the rabble in the PRCs? If he's so incurious as to ignore something obviously fishy, which led to his fellow troops getting killed, then why should I care about him?

Another problem I had was the relationship between Grayson and his girlfriend Halley, who become a couple seemingly only because they happen to share a bunk bed at boot camp. The bunk assignments are alphabetical. So was it like "Oh look, our last names are alphabetically proximal. That makes us bunkmates! I guess it also makes us fuck buddies!" Really? It just so happens that the person sleeping above his bunk is someone he finds sexually compatible and who also happens to find him worthwhile? Please. But even if I accept that coincidence, what is the basis of their relationship? I can maybe understand if they were just fuck buddies at boot camp, but they continue to stay in touch, even when there's little reason to think they'll even see one another for the next 5 years. Why? From their emailed exchanges, it appears they only talk about how their careers are progressing, never about how they feel about life, the universe, each other.... In fact, when Grayson is under threat of court martial, he elects NOT to write to Halley about how he feels conflicted about the collateral damage he perpetrated by bombing a residential building in Detroit and killing dozens of innocent people. He explains his reticence by saying he'd like to wait and talk to her in person. But then we never see that conversation! How would she react to what he did? Would he finally break down in the retelling of it, with the weight of his conscience? Here was an opportunity to make me care about Grayson and to understand their relationship, but Kloos seems to have completely forgotten that thread by the time Grayson meets up with Halley in person.

As for the rest of the characters, they may as well be set dressing. At Grayson's lunch table at boot camp, he sits with the same 5 people every day, and we only hear from 2 of them, Halley and Ricci. The other three are described in physicality only; they may as well not exist. Why do these 6 people congregate at the same lunch table every day? What do they like about one another? Who knows? And this problem persists through every new setting in which Grayson finds himself. He has "friends," but we never know them as anything other than abstractions. And when abstractions die in battle, it's hardly tragic or moving.

There are odd narrative contradictions too, which took me out of the story and made me think this book needed a better editor: (1) Grayson tells us that the stairways in the PRC are the most dangerous places, being where all the hood rats hang out to mug people violently. But later, at boot camp, the platoon is taken for its first real run, and Grayson tells us he's confident in his fitness, since he's been "running the staircases back at our residence cluster for the last three months in preparation for military training." How is that possible, if the only time we've seen him navigate a PRC staircase, he opened the door a crack, listened for hood rats, and then went down the stairs as quickly as humanly possible? "Running the staircases" implies an entire workout, and certainly not a quiet enough one to be able to hear highly motivated hood rats approaching with mischief on their minds. (2)

Finally, the ending leaves much to be desired. The story just stops. Clearly, this is all a set-up for the next novel in the series, but each book in a series should be a stand-alone work. The characters should progress through an arc of some sort, leaving the book as transformed people from how they started it. I don't get the sense that Grayson is transformed at all, mostly because we never really hear his feelings voiced; we only see events as they unfold in front of his eyes. This makes the novel really a series of disjointed short stories: the "home" vignette; the "boot camp" vignette; the "Detroit" vignette; the "hospital" vignette; and so on, with little flow between these and the only through line being Grayson's physical presence in each setting. If Grayson took away from each of these vignettes something that helped him later on, or changed him as a person over the course of the book, the novel would have been much more fulfilling.

All in all, a mindless read, sometimes entertaining (especially during the battles), but ultimately unsatisfying and forgettable.
Profile Image for Nino.
54 reviews24 followers
February 19, 2017
DNF nakon 200 str, imam osjećaj da sam sve ovo već negdje drugdje pročitao, knjiga je wannabe Scalzijevog 'Old Man's Wara', ali je nekako dosadna, glavni lik prolazi kroz nezanimljivi vojni trening koji sam već vidio u tonama drugih knjiga, i sve mu ide i čak nađe djevojku koju bari, a s obzirom da je 'štakor' iz siromašne Bostonske 'tough neighborhood' četvrti, vrlo učeno i inteligentno se zajebava sa svojim zapovjednicima i čita knjige poput Moby Dicka i Srca tame. O ostatku svijeta malo se zna, tamo neka državica na Balkanu proglasi nezavisnost i prikloni se kinesko-ruskom bloku i tu naš Grayson uskače i spasi situaciju, a zatim u Detroitu na nemirima postoji scena prekopirana iz filma Black Hawk Down. Nešto kasnije se u knjizi pojavljuju i alieni, koliko čujem po reviewsima, ali nisam došao to toga jer imam osjećaj da neće biti iznenađenja ako ni dosad nije bilo...

I za kraj bih citirao jednog reviewera s Goodreadsa koji je na smiješan način uputio svoje viđenje kako Kloos tretira i klišejizira likove koji nisu bijelci:

<<"The final straw, the passage that made me put it down for good was this: “Jackson is an equally tall and thin black girl. She wears interesting tattoos under her eyes, some sort of tribal pattern.” Get out of here, man.>>

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