RogerBW's Blog

Rich Man's War, Elliott Kay 08 August 2022

2014 space-navy SF, second of its series. Tensions are rising between Archangel's government and the corporations of the interstellar Union of which it's a member. Which doesn't bode well for Tanner Malone's wish just to put in his time and then get out of the Navy.

As in the first volume there are two major incidents here: this time it's a raid to get embassy personnel out of a planet that's being invaded, and the opening engagement of the major war that everyone knows is coming but at least some people had hoped to avoid. Malone has his reputation from the first book to live up to; he'd be happy to keep his head down, but people keep recognising him…

There's less about piracy this time, though some familiar faces reappear, and more about the financial pressures that shape war: when Archangel's government repudiates its student debts to the corporations that have run its education system, that isn't simply a yay-us moment for them, but also an annoyance for its citizens who'd already been trying to pay down those debts, and a change in cash flows that makes some kind of direct action an urgent matter for those corporations. I think this book may be the most serious look at the economics of war that I've met in fiction, even though it's kept to the background.

Also, I give the book major bonus points for noting that having been in a desperate situation produces mental stress, and that this isn't a shameful thing: Malone acknowledges it, and deals with it via a combination of general therapy with specific things he's found to work for him. This is an enlisted man's view of naval life, good and bad parts, and with a protagonist who isn't blatantly on the fast track to high command (at least not in his own mind). Yes, Malone is both good and lucky, and has friends in the power structure, but he also has a solid sense of the right thing to do, and tries to do it.

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Previous in series: Poor Man's Fight | Series: Poor Man's Fight | Next in series: Dead Man's Debt

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