Reserve lieutenant-colonel, military analyst, journalist and the very best hard sci-fi author, Leo Kunnas creates a captivating new world in his science fiction books, naming Frank Herbert, Ursula Le Guin, Dan Simmons and the Strugatsky brothers as his forerunners. His first books of the trilogy Gort Ashryn depict a believable military atmosphere in a faraway future, rare in this tradition.

Leo Kunnas was born in 1967 in Kliima village, South-East Estonia. As a 16-year-old schoolboy he made a failed attempt to escape from the Soviet Union, Remarque´s All Quiet on the Western Front and The Death Ship by Bruno Traven in the knapsack, and was caught on the Romanian border. He spent a year in a Russian juvenile colony in Vologda, decided to become a soldier and joined the Red Army. After his service, briefly studying history, philosophy and politics at the University of Helsinki and the Estonian Humanitarian Institute, he started a military career, studying in the Finnish National Defence Academy, continued as a commander in the Defence Battle School in Estonia and the first commander of Estonian Military Academy. After being in 2003–2007 the chief of the Department of Operations of the Estonian Defence Forces General Staff, he graduated from the US National Defence University (Norfolk, Virginia) and served as a staff officer in Iraq. At present in the reserve, Leo Kunnas is writing books, outstanding columns and opinion articles in newspapers.

His first book Sõdurjumala teener (Servant of the Soldier God, 2001) contains two partly autobiographical stories: Kustumatu valguse maailm (The World of Undying Light), and the title story The World of Undying Light, describing the desolate, violent and rough world of a Soviet juvenile prison where only willpower helps one to stay human. Servant of the Soldier God is a powerful and dynamic story of survival in prison and the Red Army environment, referring to the wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya, and ending with the bloodless restoration of the Estonian State.

He has published documentary stories, an Iraq chronicle Viiv pikas sõjas (A Moment in the Long War, 2006) and a collection of essays about national defence, Takerdunud rünnak (Tangled Attack, 2008).

His science fiction, however, is something very special, the peak of this genre in Estonia. Gort Ashryn. I osa. Enne viimast sõda (Gort Ashryn: Part 1. Before the Last War) got the Estonian science fiction Stalker Award in 2008 – the award is given by the readers – and the Bernard Kangro Literature Prize in 2009 as well.

Gort Ashryn is outstanding in many ways: the story is about the events taking place in 2991–2992 during a war in a planet system called Gort Ashryn, attacked by the men from our own Earth. The fluent and thrilling style takes the reader into the middle of somehow very realistic war descriptions and expert military strategy, into the depths of the soul of a soldier in the distant future, asking the questions important to us at all times: unanswered reasons for conflicts, references to the rhetoric of modern wars, the possibility to choose sides.

The protagonist Captain Anton Irv VIII, the eighth clone of an officer from the Estonian War of Independence armoured train regiment, looks back to the 20th century as to the Middle Ages, and, landing on planets named Gort Ashryn and Galad Fael, where still the same time frame exists, begins to hesitate if it is right to fight and kill civilians only for defending his Empire. Intense, captivating and sad, the two novels solve questions about time and space, depict the time machine, the army of clones of vivid persons from the past like Albert Einstein, and people living on Earth in an absolutely ‘techno-freak’ society, where everything is done by robots.

The 2nd part, Gort Ashryn. Sõda (The War) was published in 2009, the 3rd part of the trilogy, titled Rahu (Peace) in 2010.

Text by Elle-Mari Talivee

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