RogerBW's Blog

Undaunted, Mike Shepherd 29 April 2022

2009 military SF, seventh of the Kris Longknife books. Kris, continuing her exploration mission, meets an oddly peaceful Iteeche ship (the aliens who almost wiped out humanity during the last big war), and doesn't get to act on what she learns.

The blurb talks about the discovery of "an unidentifiable force that is roaming the galaxy, obliterating everything in its path", but I'm glad I wasn't reading with that in mind, because that's not what gets discovered here: rather, what we learn in this book is that the Iteeche have lost all three of their scouts that have gone to a particular new system, and are considering what to do next.

I found myself quite surprised when I suddenly got to the end of this book: yes, all right, things have happened (particularly another of Kris's firefighting missions, this time to a planet that's refighting the farmer / city folk conflict), but an awful lot of it is setup and talk and more setup and more talk. The powers back home, including Kris's family, have secrets about what happened in the war, and while there's some interesting alien psychology they turn out to be a lot more human than anyone expected. For me both those things stretched plausibility a bit, but more significantly they killed the pace; it's not that it's a slow book, but it's very heavy on arranging the things that will presumably be happening in the next few books, at the expense of actual progress now.

There's an AI that's clearly in the process of achieving sapience and needs to be taught basic ethics, and nobody treats this as a terribly serious matter. There's a twelve-year-old girl who can't be left behind when the ship goes off on dangerous missions because she's blandished the crew, and that's regarded as comic relief too.

It's at least not just the formula as before ("Kris goes to a planet where bad stuff is happening and stirs the pot so that the bad guys come into the open") but it's part of the ongoing series much more than it's a stand-alone book.

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