Book Review: Cry Pilot by Joel Dane

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Cry Pilot by Joel Dane

Mogsy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 1 of Cry Pilot

Publisher: Ace Books (August 6, 2019)

Length: 416 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I wanted to like Cry Pilot, I really did. It’s been getting a ton of praise from other reviewers though, so I’m just going to be chalking this one up to another case of “it’s not the book, it’s me.” After all, military sci-fi can be such a tricky genre, and there were certain aspects of this one that that failed to make this one my cup of tea.

The novel transports readers to a bleak, future Earth devastated by large-scale war fought by dangerous, high-tech bioweapons. However, in order to terraform the planet in the wake of such appalling destruction, the clean-up process has also reawakened these biological horrors, now gone rogue. In response to this threat, the corporate military has turned to churning out legions of soldiers including a “cry pilots”, a specialized class of fighter trained to control AI-operated mecha-like machines designed to combat a new foe known as lampreys. It’s extremely dangerous, and casualty rates are high.

Our protagonist Maseo Kaytu is a cry pilot. Due to his past status as a refugee he is barred from joining the military, but being resourceful, he manages to find a way. Assigned to Group Aleph for basic training, he joins a squad of other outsiders and misfits as they prepare to be deployed for the battle to come. Living, training, and fighting together, Kaytu starts to grow close to his teammates in spite of himself, finding it more and more difficult to hide the truth of his past from them. But if they don’t survive the coming storm, none of it is going to matter anyway.

I’ll give the novel this—the story actually took a bunch of tired and overused futuristic dystopian tropes and turned it into something that had a fresh feel to it. I certainly loved the idea of ruined Earth littered with rogue bioweapons delaying the reconstructive efforts to save the planet. So, with such a cool and interesting premise, what went wrong? Well, I tend to be a “Characters First” kind of reader, so a lot comes down to the protagonist and whether or not I find them engaging. Maseo Kaytu was not, unfortunately. I was indifferent to his voice, which I found rather dry and depthless. Something also felt off about his relationships with his squad mates, but I can’t really put my finger on why. Although their interactions read fine on paper, often the relationships themselves felt lukewarm or forced and I was indifferent as to whether any of the characters will survive to the end of the book, which is always a bad sign.

Maybe the author’s style has something to do with it. He clearly has the writing chops and experience, Joel Dane being a pseudonym for a full-time author of more than twenty books according to the publisher profile. Personally though, I found his prose challenging and clunky, bogged down by military jargon and repetition. Dane never passes on a chance to describe in great detail (and at great length) any time a new piece of high-tech weaponry is brought up, which I’m sure hardcore military sci-fi fans would probably appreciate but it just made my eyes glaze over. I also have nothing against military academy stories and tropes, but I thought the basic training section dragged on for too long in this case. A good chunk of the book was over by the time we got to see any real action, and that was just a bit too much to take.

So to break things down, the positives of Cry Pilot included the heart-pounding action sequences and the battle scenes, impressive world-building, and a truly fascinating conflict involving some of the most unique and terrifying foes I’ve ever seen. But the negatives included the mediocre character development and a repetitive, drawn-out plotline that often struggled to hold my full attention. Bottom line, the bad outweighed the good, so unfortunately this will have to be relegated to the “not for me” pile. That said, I have a strong feeling this one will work a whole lot better for voracious fans of military science fiction, so if the premise sounds appealing, I would definitely recommend taking a closer look.

27 Comments on “Book Review: Cry Pilot by Joel Dane”

  1. When it comes to military novels, I often appreciate the time the authors of such books take to describe in great detail things like, as you point out, military weaponry. It sure sounds like the author Joel Dane’s God-given talent to describe these things, which would explain why he lacks in other areas. May the Lord’s face shine upon you this day. You are an excellent writer of reviews.


  2. I really like the sound of this. But. “Clunky writing” and some of the other stuff you talked about really makes me hesitate. I’ll have to backburner this until more books come out and I can see where things go.


    • You never know, this might work for you! It reminded me a little of Jack Campbell’s style from the last book I read by him, Vanguard. Similar in tone but maybe darker. Both were pretty heavy on the hard science and military sci-fi jargon, but a bit weaker on characters.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, shoot. Comparing it to Campbell is a shoo-in for me then. I agree that Campbell is weak on characters but I like the stories enough 🙂

        I guess I’ll have to keep an eye out around the blogosphere for the future books then.


  3. I have a feeling I might fall on your side of the fence with this book. Having just struggled with a plot that couldn’t hold my attention, I’m not sure I’m ready to go through that again soon😬


  4. It’s rare to find a two-star rating in your reviews, because you always manage to find some… saving grace in many of the not-so-engaging stories you read, so I guess this might not work too well for me, especially considering that the combination of military sf (not exactly my favorite sub-genre) and flat characters would not go well with me…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂


  5. I’d be all for military SF but it seems to me that the sins you wrote about, Mogsy (especially the lack of character development and the techno-weapons porn) are somewhat of a hallmark for the majority of books I’ve read in this sub-genre.
    Fascinating review, as always 🙂


  6. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

  7. Cry Pilot is f ing fantastic. I struggle to finish military sci fi. I read Cry Pilot twice.

    I have no doubt this will be on Netflix and I’ll hate it because of all the CGI they’ll have to use to create the world. Until then I will be recommending this book.

    Underdeveloped characters? Really? You for real or just being contrary?


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