30 April, 2009

Review: The Confederation Series, by T. Huff

The Confederation series, by Tanya Huff, is a tightly focus collection of military style science fiction. The series is comprised, so far, of four books: Valor's Choice (2000), The Better Part of Valor (2002), The Heart of Valor (2007), and Valor's Trial (2008), which are all published by DAW. Do I detect a common theme?

The Setup

Hard-as-nails hardly comes close to describing Marine Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr, the protagonist and focus of the series. In the first installment Kerr and her squad are assigned to a spit and polish diplomatic escort mission to a prospective member of the confederation. Little does the unit know that they are going to be battle tested against thousands of humanoid lizards in their bid to win a new ally against the Others.
The second book in the series, following Kerr's incredible success in winning over the lizards to the confederation, has her and her team assigned to a special recon mission of an alien vessel. Just to spice things up, they are sealed onboard with a squad of Others. Close quarters combat ensues between the two factions, only to discover that the ship itself is the real enemy. Apparently, a vastly powerful and sentient species that can take on the form of, well, anything has decided to take an interest in the confederation as well as the Others.
The last two installments are by far my favorite. From a training mission gone wrong to the escape from a hidden underground prison, the reader is led on a merry, adrenaline filled ride. Turning impossible situations into victory is what Sergeant Kerr does, and does well.

My Take in Brief

I truly enjoyed this series. From its quick pace, to the flawless interactions between radically different species, there is something in here for everyone. The tech aspects of the books are slightly glossed, which might disappoint some of you reading this, but they remain perfectly credible. The focus is fixed, throughout, on social and physical interactions. Coupled with some flawless military lingo you get the impression that your just out of boot-camp and looking for Kerr to save your life at every turn.
Fundamentally, this is a work of military science fiction with sprinkles of space opera. The space opera aspect is most definitely secondary to the action/military genre; it serves to get Kerr to interesting places where stuff goes boom, or squish for that matter. That said, those aspects of the book remain compelling, thanks mostly to an accurate and artful portrayal of the relationship between war and politics. The focus is on the integration of disparate alien cultures into a single unified fighting force.
I do recommend this series because it is a captivating and entertaining read. I think I went through all four books in under two weeks. The style and pace are markedly similar to the military science fiction of David Gunn, which I have recently reviewed. If you like Huff you'll want to check him out as well.

Highlights
  • Realistic military lingo and power relationships.
  • Distinct and fascinating cultural interactions.
  • Captivating, if somewhat drawn out battles.
  • Quick, smooth, and entertaining prose.
  • Acts of desperation.
  • Endearing characters that are nevertheless mortal.
Lowlights
  • Everything that you have to sacrifice in order to get desperately epic battles in a short and fast-paced military science fiction book.
Your Take

I realize I have been focused pretty heavily of late on the military/space opera genre, so I am going to read some epic fantasy after I finish with Altered Carbon. What's your general take on the the Confederation series? Do you even enjoy military science fiction or I am boring the hell out of you?

Ratings & Links

Amazon: 3.25/5
B&N: 4.5/5
My Rating: 3.5/5

Tanya Huff's Live Journal: A couple nice recipes there!
And an exciting interview with Tanya Huff.

Piqued Your Interest?

Make sure to check out the omnibus of the first two novels, A Confederation of Valor, if you are considering the series. From what I understand the extra edits were beneficial and you get two for the price of one!

3 comments:

Admin said...
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KP said...

Interesting review.
I was out at Borders and picked up the omnibus of the first 2 books based on your review since I had been curious about this series for a while.

OnlyTheBestSciFi/Fantasy said...

Let me know what you thought of it. I'm curious to see if we have the same take on it.