I guess when you've spent a decade trying to find a book it's almost inevitably going to be disappointing. This is the other Traveller: The New Era book mentioned here
and unfortunately the novel format (in comparison to short stories) makes it feel much more like a written-up role-playing campaign. The story actually opens up very well, in TNE's post-apocalyptic universe, the planet of Lerun has been supplying aid to Darryl, a more regressed world in another star system, but now that's being invaded by the forces of Imperial Raymore, who have a nasty habit of shooting the aid workers out of hand and there's a last stand going on around the starport as they try and evacuate as many people as possible, a process that introduces us to our characters: a fighter pilot, the deck officer on a merchant starship, an artillery forward observer, and a couple of engineers.
Things don't go according to plan, the cutter lifting them out is shot down and the next place we find them is with the resistance on an offshore island, waiting for the hammer to fall, but wait, there's another island they might be able to evacuate to, and there are legends that during the final collapse soldiers once appeared from there, so there might even be a base. So our heroes are sent to look, and find a contingent of the bad guys have taken over an old, hidden planetary defence site, and there's a half-complete, lashed-together excuse of a spaceplane, which our heroes steal. That only gets them into orbit, but wait, there's another legend of a stealth warship that crashed on the moon with repairable damage, but no one could get to it to save the crew, but now they can. And so on.
The writing is okay, but the structure is problematical. Our heroes gradually put together the core of a new nation, but they never actually grow out of being first one out of the assault lander. It's as if Jim Kirk were president of the Federation, but still taking down corrupt planetary governments single-handedly every time he gets bored. Which unfortunately is symptomatic of a novel based far too closely on a role-playing campaign.
And then it stops, on a cliffhanger, with the author noting in some closing notes that he planned a four book series, but never got around to writing the other three. Strictly for the TNE completist, I'm afraid.Valour's Trial
The Truth of Valour
, Tanya Huff
Two more in Huff's Valour Confederation series. In Valour's Trial
, Torin Kerr is back where she belongs with Shquo Company, Confederation Marine Corps, and newly promoted to Gunnery Sergeant, having discovered the Confederation is being invaded by molecular-level shape-changing plastic aliens over the course of the previous couple of books. But that's only the new threat, and not one they can do much about, the ongoing war with the Others is still in progress and there's an Other task force that needs kicking off a planet in Shquo Company's sector. And then the Others nuke the battlefield.
When Torin wakes up she's in a prison camp, but the Others never take prisoners, and one of the marines has gone all Colonel Kurtz, so problems to deal with even before she can think of escape. Meanwhile, Torin's significant other, Craig, the salvage operator, is refusing to accept her death and heads off to look at the battlefield along with Presit, the Confederation's most annoying journalist.
There are some definite thematic similarities between the early part of the prison camp sequence here and LMB's Miles Vorkosigan story Borders of Infinity,
but Huff then adds additional layers of complication onto the story as Torin discovers things are in no way what they seem.The Truth of Valour
picks up three months later with Torin out of the Corps, one of the most famous people in the Confederation, and the war with the Others winding down. Training with Craig to work as a salvage operator, Torin is gradually introduced to his world, but then two salvagers are killed by pirates and if the other salvors are willing to send them off with a good party, Torin isn't willing to let it go quite so easily. Unfortunately for everyone, the pirates have siezed something that could potentially destabilize the entire Confederation, and they need a salvager to unlock it. In the worst of all possible choices they pick Craig and leave Torin for dead. Cue awesome rampage of revenge as Torin calls in the clans.
What's surprised me with this series is that Huff hasn't at all gone with what I expected, even the first book, which is a refight of Rourke's Drift, has layers of politics and xenology that I really wasn't expecting in what initially presented itself as a grunts-eye war novel (and yet they're still successful at being grunts-eye war novels). It was only in reading Truth
that I realised quite how much Human society is being changed by the interaction with other intelligent species. Dealing with the sexually irrepressible di Taykan means pretty much everyone is effectively bi (as gender really doesn't matter to the di Taykan, they just want good sex), and there are two serious conversations in Truth
about whether having sex with a di Taykan actually counts as being unfaithful or not. Truth
also strongly hints that a couple of long-running male characters are now in a relationship and it's possible there are sexual elements to Presit's friendship with Craig (on Presit's part, Craig only has eyes for Toren), even though she's a metre high, furry rodent.Pack of Lies, The 20-Sided Sorceress Book 3
, Annie Bellet
(I actually read this over Christmas and forgot to cover it earlier). Jade, the eponymous sorceress, is back home after getting people killed during the previous book, and pining for her weretiger lover, Alek who is off delivering justice for the shifters and never calls. Then the wake for the 1000 year old werewolf king, who just happened to live outside town, is interrupted by a series of murders, which bring back not just Alek, but a female werewolf Justice, who takes an instant dislike to Jade and almost instantly outs her as a sorceress, not the hedge-witch she had people convinced she is (the problem being sorcerors gain power by eating the hearts of their competition, so they really aren't well liked). As if that isn't enough of a problem, someone starts taking shots at Jade, people she cares about get hurt, and the evidence points to a professional assassin being after her, probably at the behest of series uber-bad-guy (and former lover/mentor) Samir. Unlike the first couple of books in the series it's a full length novel (c220 pages), but it actually whizzed by, so still felt short in some ways and I was surprised when I realised I was in the final few pages. It's an enjoyable read, but not a deep one (though there's a comment early on, talking about the crap Jade's BFF Harper has to put up with as a professional gamer who happens to be a woman, that may well be a reference to Gamergate). So if you're in the mood for mind-candy....