Review: Planetside Series, by Michael Mammay

Nathan W. Toronto

May 1, 2023

Each book in Michael Mammay’s Planetside Series has made me lose sleep and writing time. I lose sleep a lot, but writing time? That’s sacred, so when a book has me so hooked from the very beginning that all I want to do is read it, I have to give it five bullets on Bullet Points. With three books out, I have a whole series to recommend. The word on the street is that a fourth book is coming soon. My wallet already feels a bit lighter.

Mammay, who served multiple tours overseas, gives us a completely different kind of military science fiction series. I love this series because Mammay captures the mannerisms and culture of the military so exquisitely, and because the main character, Carl Butler, is a curmudgeonly retired colonel with a soft spot for justice and a habit of making very powerful people want to kill him.

The premise of the first three books is consistent: an old boss asks Butler to solve a murder, which Butler initially wants nothing to do with, but his soft spot for justice wins out. Butler realizes he’s bitten off more than he can chew when people start trying to kill him, but he uses his wits and his friends to bag the bad guys and solve the murder.

This premise seems cliche at first blush, but there are three reasons that each book in the series feels unique. First, Butler learns and grows from one book to the next, as do the people around him, including his various nemeses. Second, the setting for each novel is completely different, since Mammay has an entire galaxy to work with. Third, each book engages a slightly different aspect of military culture and organization, offering a window into how the military really works, not just how it fights.

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These themes play out nicely in the series. In Planetside, the first book, Butler is a war hero who comes out of semi-retirement to solve a missing persons case at an operational military command orbiting a battle-worn planet, and Butler learns how nefarious people within the military can be. In Spaceside, the sequel, Butler is a pariah trying to solve a network hack at a powerful private military firm, and he learns how important it is to have smart, loyal friends. In book three, Colonyside, Butler deals with a well-heeled exploration firm, an environmentalist group, a parochial colony administration, and a backwater military command, all of which have clear incentives to hide the truth. He learns that nothing is as it first seems, forcing him to lean heavily on his analytical and planning skills.

If you read science fiction, or military fiction, or murder mysteries, do yourself a favor and read this series. This is unlike any military science fiction you’ve read. You may lose sleep (or writing time) over it, but it will definitely be worth it.

Michael Mammay is a science fiction writer and a retired army officer. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and is a veteran of more wars than he cares to count. His novels include the Planetside series, The Misfit Soldier, and The Weight of Command. His next novel, Generation Ship, is coming in October 2023. Planetside was named to Library Journal’s best books of 2018 list, and the audio book, narrated by RC Bray, was nominated for an Audie award for best SF audio book. Michael lives with his wife in Georgia.