RogerBW's Blog

Mutineer, Mike Shepherd 16 September 2015

2004 military SF, first of a series of twelve books so far with at least two more planned. Kris Longknife, daughter of the Prime Minister of the long-settled world of Wardhaven, joined the Navy to get away from politics. But as the old alliance of humanity falls apart, it's not going to be that easy.

In many mil-sf books (and much military fiction in general), the military are Right (unless they're Bad Soldiers) and the politicians are Wrong. Here, refreshingly, that's not the case: our heroine's family are politicians as well as military, the opposed politicians who are clamoring for separation from Earth have at least some valid points, and the old soldiers, the ones who were in the big war against the aliens seventy years ago when they were young and foolhardy, are harking back to their glory days and suggesting that a good war is just what these young people need to shape them up a bit. That may not be much political sophistication, but by mil-SF standards it's revolutionary.

The weakest part is the initial action sequence, as Kris has repeated flashbacks to a traumatic event in her childhood while flying a combat drop. It's a blatant device to tell us about her background, but it feels out of place in an adult even if she's in a stressful situation. After that, she's home on furlough, sent to a colony world where the infrastructure has collapsed and the relief mission doesn't seem to be doing anything about it, home again, and then off on a fleet operation as Earth, Wardhaven and other powers send ships on a diplomatic mission. And of course you've read the titleā€¦

Yes, all right, Kris is rich and skilled and a natural leader, and has a pet AI that cracks computers for her. But also she has a surname that leads all her superiors to assume she's just racking up military service points for her future political career, everything she does in public will be given a political interpretation whether she wants it or not, and with two famous war-hero grandparents she's so thoroughly internalised the idea of having no other choice but to do the Right Thing that she sometimes fails to see how many other Right Things are possible.

The world-building is decent on a technological level, though reconfigurable smart-metal, used for combat spacecraft as well as for some other devices, seems much higher tech than the rest of what we see (hand weapons still fire bullets, for example). Not every device works flawlessly every time. There's been some thought put into the design of the spacecraft. But tech and space battles aren't the focus of this book, and there aren't many rivets to count here; it's much more about the people.

The world-building on a social level is perhaps aided by the fact that this isn't Shepherd's first visit to this universe: there's an earlier trilogy dealing with what those grandparents got up to. I haven't read those, but I may well go back and do so.

No sex scenes. No long lingering description of the heroine's appearance. No boot camp sequence. This is a breath of fresh air in my military SF reading, even if it does also include a Highland Regiment that apparently comes from England. Followed by Deserter.

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  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 01:53pm on 16 September 2015

    No Boot Camp scene. I'm outraged I tell you, Outraged!

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 02:00pm on 16 September 2015

    "But how can you tell it's military science fiction without a boot camp sequence?"

  3. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 12:23pm on 19 September 2015

    Apart from everything being painted in camouflage and everyone carrying assault rifles etc? No idea. ;-)

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