RogerBW's Blog

Last Man Out, Elliott Kay 27 October 2022

2018 SF, continuation of the Poor Man's Fight series. Tanner Malone left the Navy with a reputation as a bloody-handed butcher, and went to university to study planetary surveying. The reputation won't leave him behind, and neither will the corporate assassins, so he joins a xenoarchaeological expedition…

And that's more like it. After the frankly disappointing No Medals For Secrets, this is Elliott Kay back on form. Yes, all right, Tanner does seem to get involved in every tricky situation… but a lot of that is specifically because of his reputation, because everyone knows that trouble seems to follow him about – indeed, because when his name pops up people start to get edgy and make mistakes. If you're going to have a hero who keeps getting involved in stuff, this is the way to do it – have people in the universe notice it, and react accordingly.

Another very positive point is the continuing consideration of Tanner's PTSD. Most military series would brush this off, or perhaps make it a minor problem to be overcome with manliness, but Tanner still has occasional nightmares, he's still going through therapy, and while it's not made explicit I can't help thinking his tendency to snark at people who could have him casually killed may well be a manifestation of this too.

But anyway. Off he goes on the expedition. To a corporate world with indentured labourers, and an insurrection that's a bit more advanced than the liability waiver suggested, and a mercenary force that's struggling to put them down for all the usual reasons. And even those aren't the real threat, which is something that'll end up mobilising both Union and Archangel space forces… which sees the welcome return of several other characters from earlier books.

"That's correct," she said. "We're not in business as mercenaries, but if the job turns rough, we can handle it. We've all been through rough before."

"Ah!" Elise gasped. "Moelleux au Chocolat!" She looked to Lynette with wide, happy eyes and a giddy smile. "Save room for dessert."

"Hard-bitten combat veterans," said Lynette. "Every one of us."

There's plenty of action, but there's also discussion of why the action is happening: this isn't just a grunt's-eye view with lots of shooting, it's got the emotional weight that comes with understanding the background and the decisions that have put these people into this fight in this place.

This is the latest book to have come out, and Kay has since been working on his other series; but I'm glad to see that he can successfully move beyond the original story, and I look forward to more.

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Previous in series: No Medals For Secrets | Series: Poor Man's Fight

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