RogerBW's Blog

Deserter, Mike Shepherd 05 January 2016

2004 military SF, second of the Kris Longknife books. Thanks to deft political manoeuvres, Kris is now a princess as well as a naval lieutenant. But when a friend goes missing while they're both on leave, she can't really do anything else but go and look for him.

This is a bit of a step down from the surprisingly good Mutineer. While Shepherd still manages to avoid contemporary political references, and the bad guy is a capitalist trying to start a war (the sort of character who'd be the hero in much other mil-sf), it's a very uncomplicated story of good guys, bad guys, and the superhero who gets everything sorted out.

There is some decent if unsubtle observation of the tactics of coup, though it's all a bit 1930s Germany, but society is still glossed over rather than examined in any detail. The focus is squarely on Kris and her motley band as they work out what's going on and try to stop it. There are trails laid that never lead anywhere, though I suppose they may be resolved in a future book, and various romantic notes failed to convince. The most interesting character was Abby, Kris' new maid, clearly with a dubious past about which it's enjoyable to speculate. Things go relatively slowly for a while, with lots of discussion and repetitive bits, though the action sequences are still solid. Some jealousy is distinctly petty and unbecoming.

A thing about foreshadowing: it has to progress. You can't just spackle in basically the same scene every few chapters, saying "character X is worried about thing Y", because there's no rising tension from one to the next. It feels as if you're just trying to remind us that thing Y is still a concern and you haven't forgotten about it.

If I'd started with the series here I wouldn't have bothered to continue. I hope the next one gets back to Kris' naval career rather than this sort of amateur covert operation. Followed by Defiant.

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