I reread this military science fiction offering, first published in 2000, as a solid fan of Huff’s writing – see my review of her early urban fantasy offering Blood Price here and my take on her most recent fantasy series, The Enchantment Emporium here – would I still find this former favourite so enjoyable?
In the distant future, two alien collectives vie for survival. When the peaceful Confederation comes under attack from the aggressive Others, humanity is granted membership to the alliance – for a price. They must serve and protect the far more civilised species, fighting battles for those who have long since turned away from war.
Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr and her platoon are assigned to accompany a group of Confederation diplomats as they attempt to recruit a newly discovered species as allies. But the mission does not go according to plan…
That’s more or less the blurb – apart from the spoilers I’ve omitted. Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr is the main protagonist – and while she does have the occasional wobble, particularly around a certain R & R session near the beginning of the book, most of the time she comes across as near perfect a protagonist as I’ve seen – with the author getting away with it. Because Huff does. I kept waiting for Torin to annoy me, which she didn’t. I think it is because while she manages to always do the right thing, events slide so far out of everyone’s control so very quickly, I was caught up in the whole drama of the military encounter and willing the group to prevail. Huff is reprising a particular historical event with this book – points will be awarded if you can name the event before the end. As a result, some of the characters are loosely based on their counterparts in the famous film, which is why many of the soldiers are slightly clichéd. But this is intentional, as Huff lets us know. While it clearly annoyed some reviewers, I didn’t have a problem with it – mostly because I am aware that Huff is capable of depicting characters with far more edge and complexity. What helps to keep the characters sympathetic and enjoyable is the constant banter which continues relentlessly as the situation gets ever worse.
For me, this book is all about the pace and story arc. From the moment things start to kick off, the narrative ramps up a gear and doesn’t ease down until the very end – which also had an unpredictable twist I thoroughly appreciated. I am delighted that Titan Books have seen fit to republish this book and hope that in the process, Huff picks up more fans. Meantime if you enjoy military science fiction on any level, give this book a go – and see if you can work out which battle she based the storyline around.