BooksOfTheMoon

The Truth of Valour (Confederation, #5)

By Tanya Huff

Rating: 4 stars

Former Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr has now left the Marine Corp and is making a life in civvie street with her partner, Craig Ryder. Although the war with the Others Primacy is more or less over, space is still a dangerous place, as she discovers as their ship is attacked and Craig is taken by pirates, and she is left for dead. Unfortunately, the pirates made a big mistake in not making sure of it, as Torin gathers together some of her former colleagues and goes after them.

I think this is the first book not to be told exclusively from the point of view of either Torin or Craig, as we get into the head of Mackenzie Cho, the pirate captain who took Craig. And that’s not a pleasant place to be. Interestingly, Cho’s deep sense of entitlement and anger at supposed denial of his rights are reminiscent of the kind of man who frequents the worst areas of 4chan and the ‘manosphere’, coupled with ruthlessness and cruelty that make him an incredibly unpleasant person, and you look forward to him getting his due at Torin’s hands.

Torin is outwith her comfort zone here, with no chain of command, and without the resources of the Marine Corp at her back, and we see the strain that this puts on her, and her colleagues see it as well. Perhaps not burdened with a direct involvement and also still delegating to her, they see the situation more clearly than she does at times. No longer soldiers, but not fitting into a civilian life, they jump at the chance to be doing something as a unit again.

The ending is somewhat intriguing, as the Confederation acknowledges that their current structures aren’t suitable for post-war civilisation and Torin is asked to pull together such a fast-response team. That leads into a new trilogy which I look forward to investigating in due course (and I’m sure those plastic aliens will be back as well…).

Book details

ISBN: 9781781169742
Publisher: Titan Books
Year of publication: 2010

Valour’s Trial (Confederation #4)

By Tanya Huff

Rating: 4 stars

Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr is involved in a major battle and is thought killed in action. However, unknown to everyone, she ends up in a prisoner-of-war camp. Which is interesting, since, as far as everyone knows, the enemy don’t take prisoners. First she has to sort out problems in what is nominally her own side before she can pull a team together and get on with the serious business of escaping. What she finds may change the course of the war.

This is a fun, fast-paced novel that doesn’t let go once it’s started. As usual, there’s a mostly new set of faces around as Torin is dropped into a new situation without (most of) her crew but a few familiar faces are present. And the old spot-the-ones-about-to-die game is present and correct (although I guessed completely wrongly).

I’ve come to like Torin an awful lot over the course of these books, even if I haven’t fallen quite so far into her cult of personality as Darlys. She very obviously cares about the people under her care and does her damnedest to get them out alive, even in circumstances well beyond her control.

I’m looking forward to reading the last in the series now.

Book details

ISBN: 9781781169728
Publisher: Titan Books
Year of publication: 2008

The Heart of Valor (Confederation, #3)

By Tanya Huff

Rating: 4 stars

The third of Tanya Huff’s Confederation series sees newly promoted Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr accompanying a convalescing officer on a training mission. One that suddenly turns more serious as the deadly kit on the planet Crucible starts turning against them in earnest. With nothing more than a platoon of very green recruits and her officer’s doctor with her, she has to survive the planet.

This is the first book in the series that Kerr starts to question the nature of the war that the younger races are fighting on behalf of the Confederation, and it’s implied that she’s not the only one. Until now, she’s been the model soldier, going where she’s told and doing what she’s told when she gets there. Although the thought is left tantalisingly open in this book, it’ll be interesting to see where (if anywhere) it goes in the remaining volumes.

There was another new set of cannon fodder other soldiers to get to know here as well (remarkably few of whom died. I know, right, I’m as surprised as you!), although I’m not sure “get to know” is the right phrase, since none of them really got much in the way of character development. I don’t think that’s really the draw with milSF stories though, and the constant slog of the platoon to keep together, to develop and stay alive until help can arrive definitely holds the book together, with the B-plot involving Kerr’s lover, trying to find out what happened to something he salvaged in the previous book that the military took off him, creating a good amount of intrigue.

A solid military SF story and one that is starting to expand the universe. I look forward to the rest of the series.

Book details

ISBN: 9781781169704
Publisher: Titan Books
Year of publication: 2007

The Better Part of Valour (Confederation, #2)

By Tanya Huff

Rating: 3 stars

The second book in Huff’s Confederation series follows on almost straight from the end of the first. Having got the attention of a two-star general (and having got him miffed at her), Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr is assigned to protect a scientific mission to a seemingly derelict alien spaceship of a type that isn’t known to the Confederation. Of course, the ship isn’t all it appears and it’s up to Kerr to get her team, and the civilians, out safely.

This is a fun story in the “haunted spaceship” genre. Apart from Kerr and general Morris, we get only a couple of cameos from any of the cast of the first novel, but that does give us time with a whole new bunch of characters to get to know. I don’t feel that the characterisation of these new marines was as good as those from the first novel. You didn’t really care as much which lived and died , although really Ms Huff? Did you actually kill off the character with “Kill Me” tattooed on his forehead? I thought that was going to be some sort of bait and switch, rather than going for the obvious target.

This time round, Kerr gets a love interest, in the form of civilian salvage operator Craig Ryder, who was the one who found the (apparently) derelict ship in the first place. The relationship between them is practically stereotypical, starting from “get out of my way, civilian”, through, “well, he does have a nice smile” to, well, no bonus points for guessing. He does have some interesting characterisation though, which is brought through nicely by Huff.

There’s not an awful lot more learned about the Confederation itself (although we discover that its politics are the same as politics everywhere, as the expedition is led by a glory-hungry, media-friendly officer who’s only there because of political manoeuvring by his people in Parliament). I do sort of think that this might have moved the overall war plot forward a bit, however. Mind you, I’m not sure if I just missed/forgot something, but I’m not sure what the significance of the grey barrels in the last paragraph of the novel was. It felt very much like the close up on a grave right at the end of a horror film as a hand bursts through, but if there was significance, it passed me by (or we’ll find out next book, I suppose.

Like the first novel in the series, this came with a nice wee short story set elsewhere in the Confederation universe, following a different group of marines, not related to the main cast as they were trying to escape from an ambush and dealing with the lengths that soldiers will to go for their comrades.

So a good milSF story that definitely makes me want to read the next in the series.

Book details

ISBN: 9781781169681
Publisher: Titan Books
Year of publication: 2002

Escape from Baghdad!

By Saad Hossain

Rating: 3 stars

Dagr and Kinza are two very different people, thrown together in the mayhem that is post-invasion Baghdad. Dagr is a professor of economics while Kinza is a low-life. Losing everything from their old lives, they get along now selling small scale arms they get from an American soldier, Hoffman. Then fate drops Hamid, a senior member of the Saddam regime, into their laps and the two some decide to try to get out of Baghdad to Mosul, where Hamid claims is a hidden treasure.

This is an odd book. Part gritty war story, part fantasy, part Da Vinci Code-esque thriller. It certainly doesn’t skimp on showing the horrors of war, including atrocities committed by Americans as well as the various rebel factions. And yet, as the person who loaned me the book commented, at times it had the feel of an Ian McDonald book, (no bad thing, both of us are fans of Mr McDonald), for me especially the sequences involving the old Mother Davala, and the impossible home in which she lives.

For me, the plot involving a secretive sect after a mysterious artefact that could hold the secret to immortality was almost less successful than the characters, as we follow the bewildered professor, the psychotic cut-throat and the charming soldier as their lives get even harder than usual in wartorn Baghdad. It’s those sections, that examine what war can do to an individual, a community and, ultimately, a society, that are the strongest for me.

Book details

ISBN: 9781939419248
Publisher: The Unnamed Press
Year of publication: 2012

Valour’s Choice (Confederation, #1)

By Tanya Huff

Rating: 4 stars

Humans were given entry to the Confederation because the elder races had long since lost their ability to fight a war, and now one had come calling upon them. Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr and her platoon are assigned to a diplomatic mission to recruit a new race into the Confederation before the aggressive Others can get to them. However, the ceremonial role goes awry when their transport ship is shot down, and Kerr has to keep her people, and the diplomats, alive for the future of the Confederation.

I’m not normally a big reader of MilSF, but a friend whose tastes I trust heavily recommended this to me, and it was a lot of fun. From my limited reading in the subgenre, I don’t think it brings anything hugely new to it, although the protagonist is female, and there’s never any doubting that the women are any way lesser than the men in the Marines of the Confederation. Torrin is a likeable protagonist, as are the others in her platoon, from the new wet-behind-the-ears officer that she has to mould to the men and women she’s in command of. From fairly early on, I was playing Guess Who’s Going To Die – although the book is fairly smart and when one grunt is found by his colleagues wistfully looking at a picture of his young daughter, he gets yelled at for not knowing about the tropes.

One issue I had with the book was that the aliens didn’t really feel all that alien. The Confederation military has three different races in it, and apart from one of them being very fond of sex and the other being able and willing to eat just about anything, they could just be humans. The race that they’ve gone to recruit, the Silsviss, are more interesting, as their lifecycle forms a fairly important part of the plot. Still, this isn’t a hugely big deal for me as all the characters, no matter what their race, are interesting and usually quite fun.

Apparently the final battle was based on an early battle in the Zulu war, although since I’m not a military buff, I completely failed to notice this. But on the other hand, it wasn’t important to the enjoyment of the book nor to appreciate how tense the situation was, with Kerr’s platoon massively outmanned.

This is the first in a series and despite my misgivings about military SF I liked Kerr and the setting enough to definitely look out for others in the series.

Book details

ISBN: 9781781169667
Publisher: Titan Books
Year of publication: 2000

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