Without going too deeply into the politics, wars aren’t what they used to be. At the start of the last century we fought wars against very real threats to our national stability, against fascist dictators who sincerely believed they could take over the world. Recently, wars seem to have been more about money, resources, and maintaining dominance of the global economy.
The way we’ve recruited our troops has changed too. Previous generations endured conscription and national service, with young men facing the choice of a highly likely heroic death in the army or certain death at the wrong end of a firing squad. Nowadays, in the UK at least, the army is advertised on television as an opportunity for young people to travel, get high-calibre training and launch their careers.
Army@Love takes things one step further. Set in a near future, where American troops are deployed in a fictitious middle-eastern country, fighting a local insurgency for no particular reason, the army needs new ways to recruit into its flagging ranks. The answer comes in the form of the Hot Zone Club, a sort of cross between the mile high club and shag-fest holidays like 18-30. The idea is that there’s no buzz quite like the thrill of sex in combat, so the army turns a blind eye to sexual activities in the field.
There’s more too: officers are conscripted from company boardrooms and come with their own sponsorship deals; tanks and planes carry logos and adverts; and soldiers can carry mobile phones at all times to help stay in touch with loved ones.
Amongst all this fascinating future extrapolation there’s also a plot. We follow a soldier called Switzer, one of the founders of the Hot Zone Club, cheating on her husband in the line of fire. Meanwhile, hubby is back at home doing his own bit for promiscuity, bonking the unhappy wife of an army officer. A sexual farce ensues, with mobile phone conversations and surprise visits ensuring that nothing stays secret for long.
Mixing sex, politics, violence and comedy in almost equal measure, Army@Love is a fun and fascinating read, managing to glamorise, satirise and ridicule the army in one fell swoop. Veitch and Erskine’s visuals are attractive and consistent throughout, as comfortable in the bedroom as in the battle-zone. Well worth a look if you fancy something a bit steamy with the depth of plot and high concept to balance and justify the sex and violence.