RogerBW's Blog

To Stand Defiant, Glynn Stewart 20 November 2023

2022 space-navy SF, second of its sub-series. The Dakotan Confederacy refuses to become the arsenal for a massive fleet being built by the admiral who's taken over the Commonwealth of which it used to be a part. Nobody there wants a fight, but military dictators aren't known for their understanding of differing opinions…

But that's the simple statement of fact, and there's more complexity behind this decision than might be apparent. Both sides are loyal to the Commonwealth as it was; but on one side the official plan is to bring all the disloyal systems back into line by force and then step down in favour of civilian government, while the feeling on the other side is that the Commonwealth that they were loyal to is already dead—now that the precedent of a military officer seizing power has been set, even if this particular guy is genuine, it will inevitably happen again—and they see their job as to build a true successor state honouring its founding principles.

The situation isn't helped by the Stellar League who've been nibbling away at a different part of Dakotan territory; they were fought off in book 1, but they're still there, and their ruler is the first they've had who has some chance of handing over an orderly state to his heir rather than starting a power struggle when he dies. So he has to look strong and warry in front of his own subordinates…

Which is frankly more political sophistication that I expect from a spaceships go boom book! (But spaceships do go boom too.)

In fact, while there are battles here, what everyone's trying to do is avoid fighting as far as possible: many ships under construction were destroyed at the end of the previous war, so it'll be a while before any new ones are available, and everyone has to have an eye to potential losses and the next fight rather than just trying to win this one at all costs. Which in turn means that the occasional problem of this series, that Stewart likes writing about battles being won by cunning tactics and deceptions rather than by mass of metal even though that's not usually what happens in the real world, is sidestepped, because this is just the sort of situation which encourages unconventional approaches.

"I have a crazy plan, Captain Ferreiro," James admitted. "And I can't leave it to anyone else to execute."

"Is it the kind of plan that takes down a fleet half again our size without a suicide sacrifice play?" Ferreiro asked drily.

"If it works. If it doesn't work, we could be in major trouble. It's that kind of plan."

I love it. This is genuinely strategic military science fiction in a way that most books ignore in favour of the tactical view from the front lines, while at the same time it doesn't forget the importance of that view.

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Previous in series: Admiral's Oath | Series: Dakotan Confederacy

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