Monday, September 24, 2012

Valor's Choice by Tanya Huff

 I've always enjoyed Tanya Huff's work, though for about a decade I feel behind in reading her latest novels. Had to do some catchup on the "Blood" series a while back, and now when I noticed that she had three recently published novels in the Valor/Confederation series, I had to go back (like I did with Weber's War God series recently) and grab the first two books off the shelves upstairs and re-read them, so I could feel like I'm aware of the situation and characters once again.

Sometime in the dim past, a group of old starfaring races have joined together to form a Confederation, peacefully assembled to trade and explore. The fly in the ointment, however, is The Others, an undescribed race (or perhaps a confederation of their own) or warlike aliens who have attacked the Confederation's planets, people and interests. To save their bacon, the elder races have recruited some more aggressive beings to fight the war for them, as they either disdain to do so, or are by nature unable to. Haven't we heard this tune before? or after?

The three races that ARE aggressive enough to battle The Others are the humans, first to join the Confederation, the Krai, and the Taykan. At this juncture, however, a fourth race of warriors has been discovered, the lizardlike Silsviss, and Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr is assigned as the senior noncom in charge of a Space Marine detail tasked with guarding the diplomatic mission to their home planet, where negotiations will take place to attempt to convince the lizard men to join the Confederation, rather than throwing their forces onto the side of The Others.

I'm certain my son, a U.S. Marine sergeant, would have some pointed comments about how the Marine units are organized, how they fight and how they interact with one another, but this is fiction, futuristic, and the Corps has integrated alien races into its forces, not merely different flavors of humans, so I just figured to relax and enjoy it. That said, I think it at least captures some of the spirit of our current forces with its "no being left behind" philosophy and refusal to give up in the face of massively superior forces.

Early in the mission, a barroom brawl that erupts between some of the Marines, befriended by one group of Silsviss, and another rival group of Silsviss, seems to bode well for the future integration of the lizard fighters into the Confederation military. After that, things get complicated.

While on a flight to the capital city, the airship carrying the Marines and their diplomatic charges is shot down by unknown enemies, and they are forced to evacuate, move to a secure location, and improvise nearly everything. They come under attack by thousands of near-savage adolescent Silsviss, who are sent away to wilderness preserves to fight for dominance when their hormones take them out of control. Huff weaves a good tale of survival, heroism and battle - and blows up lots of stuff, too.

Fun tale, good military SF.

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