RogerBW's Blog

Defiant, Mike Shepherd 16 June 2016

2005 military SF, third of the Kris Longknife books. As a victim of fallout from a political attack against her family, Kris gets sent on a diplomatic mission, then comes back to a desperate struggle in defence of her homeworld.

This is a book of two uneven parts. The first sees Kris go to Space Hawaii, where they even admit that they've had to reconstruct the culture after centuries away from Earth, to try to get them to join the new interstellar polity her family has been putting together to try to replace the old one (the Society of Humanity) that's come apart in recriminations and war.

Space Hawaii? Really? Well, OK, I guess. There's a certain amount of the running around with guns that I didn't enjoy in Deserter (I am interested in space navy more than in space marines), but mostly what's going on is the brokering of a political deal between the subsistence-fishing islanders and the majority mainlanders who end up paying all the tax (because the islanders don't have a cash economy). So that's fair enough.

But the main body of the book is preparation for, and then fighting, a horribly uneven space battle. In my review of the last book I said "I hope the next one gets back to Kris' naval career rather than this sort of amateur covert operation" – and it does, with a vengeance.

In a series book like this, there's obviously no tension about whether the protagonist is going to survive: we know she will, and indeed triumph. The question, therefore, is at what cost she will survive, and the cost here is grave in the extreme. Kris is running a squadron of "fast patrol boats", relying on agility to survive until they can unleash a strictly one-shot killer punch, and even with a genius commander they have a hellishly high attrition rate. So while Kris still has all the advantages, including a computer that's clearly developed well beyond the point where it should be called fully sentient and a reputation both personal and family that sees people willing to lay down their lives because she says so, this never feels like an easy fight.

It does rather need the opposition to be wilfully blind, though, and this is even admitted. It feels as though the point of this universe is to let Kris be amazing at great cost, and that's what it lets her do. At least it is at great cost, which is more or less why I continue to read these things occasionally, but I'm not eagerly plunging into the next volume straight away.

I'm increasingly of the opinion that the qualities in the first book, Mutineer, that appealed so much to me were a lucky coincidence. The one's followed by Training Daze (novella, written later out of sequence) and Resolute.

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Previous in series: Deserter | Series: Kris Longknife | Next in series: Training Daze

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