RogerBW's Blog

Resolute, Mike Shepherd 04 September 2016

2006 military SF, fourth of the Kris Longknife books. Kris finally gets an independent command: a single-world "naval district" on the far end of anywhere.

It's not at all clear why this "naval district" should have its base, such as it is, in orbit over a planet that's not a member of the Wardhaven alliance of worlds. Nor indeed why it should be considered "back of beyond" when it's directly adjacent to Greenfeld space, which has been clearly set up as the Big Bad Space Empire of the series.

But this is again a book of several parts: first, coming to the station, which is abandoned, the last commander (also the last member of the Navy on station) having retired to the planet when his term was up. The planet turns out to be one of those Doggedly Independent worlds where they're staggeringly predictable in their reactions to being told what to do by outsiders. (Fortunately neither the good guys nor the bad guys manage to realise this.)

Second part, while on a mission to check and repair the buoys that sit at jump points and pass messages through, Kris and her team discover (a) that someone's been destroying them, (b) that they're still there and are very un-suspicious for what's presumably a gang of space pirates, and (c) there's a new sort of jump point which only Kris's sapient computer has recognised as such, which leads to a world full of alien supertech. So the system of Chance has suddenly become a whole lot more valiable.

Third part, the bad guys show up, led by Hank Peterwald, heir to the big boss of the empire. And Hank is… unfortunate. When we first met him in Mutineer he was interestingly enigmatic, involved in things that went badly for Kris but not clearly to blame. In Defiant he was a blubbering wreck. Here he's an idiot determined to kill Kris, put in charge of a task force well above his level of competence, in a space empire that's turning into an even more sexist version of stereotypes of Soviet Russia. As in Defiant, the enemy commander is an idiot who locks up his subordinates when they try to tell him what he's doing wrong, which in turn makes Kris look distinctly less impressive for beating him; Ben Goldacre's deceased cat is probably a better tactician.

Still, the first stage of the bad-guy attack is sensible: let his sailors loose in a foreign port, with no shore patrol, and occasional agents provocateur to make sure trouble gets started. Then, when they're arrested, arrange to "rescue" them from the "terrorists" who are "holding them hostage". Peterwald finds himself talked down, but this is a plan that could and should have worked.

Then, just before he should leave the system, he hears about the alien treasure trove and turns back to make a conventional military attack, four state-of-the-art warships versus two pirate-rigged merchantmen and one museum ship. Just as in Defiant, Kris has to scrape together a force of volunteers and come up with amazing tactics to take on impossible odds. And again, if the enemy commander weren't stupid he'd have an easy victory.

The bits with Kris are pretty decent, as she struggles under the load of remembering what the casualties were like last time she had to do this, but she could really use some smart opposition rather than just enemies with lots of ships. The ending, in which she comes to terms with just how much everyone's been manipulating her, shows some promise, but this series is distinctly losing my interest and I may well not continue with it.

There are also minor errors of writing which suggest this book has not seen the attentions of an editor, but merely a spell-checker ("formally" instead of "formerly", "hyperbola" intead of "hyperbole").

Followed by Audacious.

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  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 10:19am on 04 September 2016

    I'd suggest adding links to the earlier reviews of series so that it makes it easier to go and read what you've previously written.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 10:31am on 04 September 2016

    That's what the "All book reviews" page (linked at bottom right) is for, but I'll see about linking into that more specifically.

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