The Better Part of Valor
by Tanya Huff
Review by Ernest Lilley
DAW Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0756400627
Date: 01 March 2002 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Not content to rack up a considerable number of kills in the fantasy arena, author Tanya Huff had to go and decide to write Mil-SF with every bit as much flair as she had shown in her Sing The Four Quarters quadrilogy or her Blood Price/Trail/Line/Pact/Debt series of vampires stories.
Just last April Tanya introduced us to Torin Kerr in Valor's Choice, an outspoken high tech marine on the high frontier and light-years away from Earth. Back then she was assigned to a simple diplomatic mission, which caused no end of complications and by the time it was over she'd been instrumental in bringing another race of aliens into the Confederation and earning her unit some really needed rest. Now she's back with much better cover art and either a hodgepodge of new marines or a hand picked team of experts, depending on how you look at it.
Having made the mistake of coming to a two star general's attention, she's about to be rewarded the way really good soldiers are always rewarded, by being given an assignment tougher than the last. This time, she's taking a recon team into a massive alien spaceship under the command of an alien officer she can only hope the brass is either trying to kill or promote off the field so his ego can't do any more damage while his political backers get what they want.
"Nobody's that good." Gripes one of her marines.
She might just be. But then again, they don't know what they're going to find inside the big yellow spaceship.
Torin is a totally cool, kick butt, Ripley-Harrington sort of gal. She's a Non-Com, a Staff Sergeant to be exact, a region of the military where legend has it that enlisted soldiers go when they know everything there is to know about fighting, and are too smart to be suckered into being an officer. She's someone who goes in and gets the job done, using whatever assets she's got available, and gets back out with as little cost as she can.
How dangerous can this little "Military Mission Other Than War" be, though? All she has to do is check out a derelict vessel and make sure a bunch of civilian scientists and a prima donna commander don't hurt themselves, right?
Along for the ride is the deep space salvage operator who happened on the alien ship, and consequently gets to claim salvage rights. Equal parts attractive and annoying, he's sticking much too close to Torin for her comfort...and like most civilians he doesn't follow orders worth a damn. To add the ultimate insult, much as she'd like to kill him, she's starting to like him.
Once inside things are quiet and comfortable, until the scientists start poking around, then things get much more normal for the marines...as they have to fight their way through unknown territory to rendezvous with a shuttle they can only hope will be there. Along the way, if it can go wrong it will, but to top it all off, Staff Sergeant Torin has to salvage a PR victory out the whole mess for her commanding officer or the whole thing was wasted effort anyway.
"Ours not to reason why..." goes the old standard, and it gets entirely too much airplay on this mission for Torin's taste. Well, the kind of high energy combat writing, slick character play and tight plotting that Tanya Huff pulls off in The Better Part of Valor is very much to my taste.