Brad R. Torgersen’s The Chaplin’s War is an exceptional first novel. Having read his short fiction in the pages of Analog Science Fiction, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show I knew to expect a competent writer with some pretty serious storytelling chops. What I didn’t expect was a novel rich with thoughtful characters, difficult dilemmas, and a keen insight into a realistic future military, all told with a pace and craftsmanship worthy of his mentors.
Torgersen breaks the linearity of the plot into two primary timelines, giving the reader a chance to see Harrison Barlow, the Chaplin’s Assistant, grow and plant the seeds of the man he will become. Religion, and more importantly faith, is an important theme in the novel, but don’t worry, Torgersen never turns preachy, and even as an Atheist myself, I never felt there was a time when this novel was turning into a morality tale. Torgersen raises difficult questions, and he doesn’t seem to be afraid to face the outcome of answers that aren’t simple.
But it’s not just a novel of intellectual and spiritual debate. Torgersen has populated a world at war with an intriguing enemy for mankind to face. And if you’re fan of traditionally military science fiction, there will be plenty of action, gunplay, and big hardware to whet your appetite. There’s also plenty of internal intrigue within the military to make this a very well rounded story.
I guess my only real complaint is that there wasn’t more story here, but luckily Brad seems to be a pretty prolific writer, so hopefully we’ll see more great stories from this young master in training. Buy this book. I do not think you will be disappointed.