Book Review – New Model Army by Adam Roberts
In summary Adam Robert’s New Model Army is a fabulous concept that doesn’t quite work for me.
New Model Army has a Fab Concept. However it doesn’t quite work. Some of it is too heavy handed and not well enough researched to be credible.
New Model Armies
I bought this book because I liked the premise, a change in the nature of warfare brought about by better information available to the whole army through a wiki style network. It has promise for some very interesting stories, but the author instead wrote a political polemic based on very old fashioned stereotypes and without bothering to do his research.
Accepting that our narrator is probably unreliable, given he is definitely going insane, and the twist that happens at the end (no spoilers) it is clear that we cannot rely on him. However there are bits of his prior experience with the British Army that just don’t work for me (having been in the TA from 1989-1992 and knowing a fair number of current and recently ex-service personnel).
What I didn’t like about it
The primary character is supposed to have served in the British Army for a few months before deserting because he didn’t like the extreme discipline. This itself is fair enough, a few months would see a soldier through basic training and into the specialist training for their arm of service. This is the period when the most discipline is imposed. All through the book the success of the new model armies is based on the rigid inflexibility of traditional forces that cannot think for themselves. This is the bit I find most difficult to swallow, even back in the 1980s soldiers were being taught to solve problems and work through gaps in information and orders, especially regulars that were deployed to Northern Ireland. By the current period, with the huge increase in peacekeeping operations and the small insurgencies thinking is a core skill for all ranks, not just senior officers. The stereotype might have been true for the 1950s conscripts, but even then I doubt it.
This is not my only problem with the book though. While it is clear that the author can write decent prose, there is still not a whole lot of thinking going on about the consequences of how the technology changes things. There is some in there, but not enough. For example why didn’t the British Army just turn on massive jammers of the wifi signal when they came up against the NMAs? Also why are the NMA better on a man for man basis when they are largely untrained volunteers up against properly trained soldiers in a veteran army? I can get local superiority allowing them to win battles, but in an exchange of fire I don’t see how wiki info turns people into better shots.
Anyway, the book is riddled with holes and could have been edited into a crisper better book. Unfortunately it wasn’t.