Finishing a trilogy is nearly always an exhausting process. Bringing the characters we’ve followed for two books, and grown attached to (I know I have) along through more tough times, just wears me down – but obviously, the theme of these novels is war, not happiness, and that reflects the truth of being a soldier, a fighter, caught up in history and change. The added complication of the Gurus—the showrunners of history as entertainment, for a corrupt and decadent and ambiguous audience spread across the stars – reflects, to my mind, the recent nature of politics and Middle Eastern wars, but also a universal truth about many wars – that they are fought to keep key people in power, to protect corruption and egotism, to lay a shadow of personality over history like a shroud.
For the soldier, the fighter, this history is life. It has its ups and downs, its extremes, its moments of introspection and education. There’s nothing like a war to teach you about human nature in its most exposed and vulnerable form. Wars and fighters form partnerships. The generals and gunnery sergeants and chiefs take training for older wars and conflicts and adapt and apply them to the new, the unexpected. Sometimes the application works, sometimes, it’s disastrous.
Whenever possible, I’ve asked for the advice of people who have actually been through recent wars. My father was a veteran of World War 2 and Korea and Vietnam. Just a few days ago, I met a former Marine who had served at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea just as the Red Chinese had massed to expand that ‘police action’ and create a frozen hell fully the equal of battles in World War 2. Veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have a different experience of war, but also know their lives and actions and wounds and deaths extend back through a long history into Biblical times. Names and histories are everything in the human experience of War. Mosul embraces Nineveh . . . A modern story merges into Biblical legend.
The question none of my characters can answer is whether humanity is doomed to eternal warfare. If so, who takes the blame? Who emerges the better, improved and enlightened? Who profits?
This trilogy tries to cover a horrible time from a personal perspective. Characters emerge changed. That’s life, and that is certainly combat and war.
Will we ever know better?
I conclude Take Back the Sky with a note of renewed youth and expansion, of mystery and fresh adventure – of taking charge.
And that is also the hope of all war, any war, that enough children remain to grow up and learn better. That fighters retain enough of their childhood to heal and overcome the traumas they’ve survived.
My characters, these children, some of them, survive and expand. They learn, and grow. They continue to dream, to think new and radical thoughts.
God bless them all.