Victory Conditions (Vatta's War)
by Elizabeth Moon
Review by Ernest Lilley
Del Rey Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345491619
Date: 19 February 2008 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Ky Vatta has come a long way from the first book in the Vatta's War sequence four books ago. Then she was reeling from being drummed out of her homeworld's space academy for helping the wrong student and suffering the political consequences. Since then she's had her family decimated by pirate attackers, taken command of a trading ship, gone privateer, and organized a space fleet to fight the pirates on their own terms. Now they think she's dead -- but that's going to be the worst mistake they could make. Well, aside from pissing her off in the first place. Victory Conditions is a great end (but with room for more) to a series that stands well beside both Bujold's early Miles Vorkosigan novels and Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy.
Vatta's war continues on several fronts in the final installment. Cousin Stella's head for business is asserting itself as she works to rebuild the shipping fleet that has been the family business for generations. Aunt Grace is consolidating her power as head of their homeworld's security -- a step up from the corrupt officials she managed to unseat. And Ky is putting together an intersystem space navy using shipboard FTL communications -- a trick that the pirate forces had already learned and which had let them take over system after system.
The stage is set for the final battle, but the numbers aren't on our side, as suspicious governments reluctantly release ships to Ky's command. After all, the name Vatta has been linked to a lot of trouble recently.
We see some of the secondary characters coming along here too. Toby, Stella's nephew, is living with Stella and he's flourishing as only a teen genius can. Not only did he manage to reverse-engineer the shipboard ansibles, he's fallen in love with a girl whose father may be involved in questionable activities. When Toby goes missing, it's up to his girl and his dog to get him back. Odds are we'll be seeing this duo in future books, even if the war does wind up here.
Out in space Ky's fleet gets smacked hard in combat, and her new flagship is destroyed around her. If she'd been commanding from her older converted freighter, the pirates' assessment that she went down with the ship would have been accurate, but this was a vessel designed to protect its most precious asset.
Though she may have the advantage of still being alive, the enemy still has the numbers, and the fight that's shaping up has no certain outcome. Except that it's going to be great for us to watch.
Though this is touted as the fifth and final installment in the Vatta's War sequence, Moon leaves plenty of room for more adventures in this universe. That's welcome news, whether she continues the story with her lead characters or brings the next generation along.