The Pipes, the pipes they are a freezing: The Highway Men by Ken MacLeod (Dingwall, Sandstone Vista, 2006)
Jase, Euan and Murdo are conscripts. In the war against terror and cold, they are the ones fighting the cold, laying pipes and lagging houses.
By accident they get caught up with a bunch of squatters, living in the hills in the Highlands, and end up smashing up an army operation. It ends with them joining up with the squatters (and as with many of MacLeod's books, there is more than a hint of a man led by his heart rather than his head).
The book is slight because it's meant as an intro reader, for those who don't read fast, but it's meaningful: MacLeod opted to give a slice of story, an episode in a war, rather than try for a longish short story and it works very well. The future is clear and MacLeod does a good job of seeing it from the bottom rather that the top. In terms of the books remit it has two very specific things going for it: first the protagonists are older than average--very early twenties perhaps--and second they are very, very competent. Working class, not too bright, but very competent. We don't see that combination anywhere near enough in sf (whre most working class men turn out to be super-duper engineers).
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