Ironclads depicts a future of endless war.

Rule out climate change or catastrophic events like a supervolcano eruption or a meteor collision. Then try to imagine a dystopian future caused entirely by human agency, taking current trends to their logical conclusion. Including radical change in the climate, of course. You might then end up with something along the lines of Adrian Tchaikovsky‘s novella, Ironclads. In this grim vision of a future of endless war, multinational corporations have gained ascendancy over nations and are waging war with one another and with national governments that resist their power. Military technology has advanced to the point that humans are more expendable than the machines of war. And so, too, are the civilians who, with the exception of a tiny, privileged corporate elite, are left to eke out a meager existence on the margins of the fighting.

Ironclads by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2017) 101 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)

In a future of endless war, soldiers are expendable

In this grim environment, Sergeant Ted Regan, an American career soldier, receives orders to lead what seems to be a certain suicide mission in Sweden. There, the socialist government of Scandinavia is fighting a desperate battle against Western corporations. Regan and his team of two are to rescue the cousin of a powerful corporate executive who has disappeared behind enemy lines. “Jerome would be a big old bargaining chip for the Nords, after all, except that apparently nobody was even asking for a ransom.”

It’s mysterious how Jerome, a Scion clad in the impenetrable armor granted only to the corporate elite, could possibly have been captured by the Swedes. Because “he was seven foot tall and must have weighed six hundred pounds in his suit. . . Those shells are the battledress of the sons of corporations.” But Regan’s lot is not to question why. Nor may he say anything when a black woman named Cormoran, herself a corporate Scion, joins the team with her sidekick. Regan takes this as a sure sign that he and his fellow soldiers will be sacrificed. And in the fierce fighting that follows, his suspicions are not far from the truth. What else could he expect in a future of endless war?

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