RogerBW's Blog

Q-Ship Chameleon, Glynn Stewart 24 September 2022

2016 SF, fourth of its series. Captain Roberts pulled off a daring rescue, but he also brought back a badly-broken ship, and he has powerful enemies. So he's not getting another combat command… but the Intelligence division has a use for him.

I can see the temptation of bringing your space navy series down into the special-ops realm; it's easier to keep things on a human scale if you have just one ship rather than dozens. But it's also more of a known realm: the tactics of space fighters are very dependent on the particular drives and so on that Stewart has invented, but the tactics of Marines with rifles are something close to universal if they're recognisable at all. (No remote-operated drones here.)

Well, we get a fair bit of both. The Q-ship never really has to stand up to close inspection, and that's a good thing, because someone forgot to clarify the chain of command to the black-ops troopers on board (both ground fighters and pilots). This Intelligence corps is definitely one of those cowboy operations that doesn't care how crazy someone's going as long as they shot in the right direction last time they were out, and if this conflict is perhaps rehashed a bit too often it's not really resolved until the last time it comes up.

Also these people desperately need a computer security consultant.

But there's some welcome consideration of ethics: yes, making it look as if your good-guy power A ship is actually from power B, with the aim of attacking the real enemy power C and kicking off a war between them and B, is at least a little dodgy, and perhaps not the sort of thing that a sailor thought he'd signed up for. There's a bigger problem at the climax, though:

Oybjvat hc n aniny fuvclneq shyy bs pvivyvnaf jbhyq or, jr'er gbyq n greevoyr jne pevzr. Abg dhvgr fgnaqneq ehyrf bs jne, ohg nyy evtug, yrg'f tb jvgu vg. Ohg pnhfvat n qvfnfgre gb gung fuvclneq, xvyyvat znal srjre crbcyr juvyr pnhfvat bgure sbeprf va flfgrz gb uryc jvgu gur erfphr engure guna punfvat gur nggnpxre… vf nccnenagyl Whfg Svar.

Apart from that… it's certainly still fluff, but it's more fun than it has any right to be, and the main characters occasionally approach something like real personalities.

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Previous in series: Battle Group Avalon | Series: Castle Federation | Next in series: Rimward Stars

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