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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fred Patten Reviews The Heart of Valor


The Heart of Valor


Author: Tanya Huff
Publisher: DAW Books
ISBN 10: 0-7564-0435-5
ISBN 13: 978-0-7564-0435-2

This third novel in Huff’s Confederation military s-f series can be read on its own, but it is a direct sequel to the second novel. DAW Books has just published A Confederation of Valor, a combined edition of the first two novels, Valor’s Choice and The Better Part of Valor, which is recommended.

Torin Kerr is a sergeant in the Confederation Marines, in a multi-species interstellar civilization. Earth and its humans have been recruited into this civilization by its founders, dubbed the Elder Races, to help fight in a galactic war against the savage Others. Most of the actual fighting is done by the Marines, which consist of the three most warlike species discovered by the Elder Races; the humans, the di’Taykan, and the Krai. In the previous novels, Kerr was part of a detachment of Marines involved with bringing the newly discovered reptilian Silsviss into the Confederation, and exploring a totally alien spaceship, Big Yellow. Both were full of deathtraps and heavy on futuristic military action.

As The Heart of Valor opens, Torin has been promoted from Staff Sergeant to Gunnery Sergeant and assigned to give briefings on the Silsviss at the Confederation’s Ventris space station. (Big Yellow is still classified Top Secret.) After several weeks of repetitious briefings, Torin is bored stiff, so she jumps at the chance to take charge of a platoon of 32 recruits to the Marines’ training planet Crucible for a rugged winter combat simulation testing. They have hardly begun before they are cut off from off-planet communication and the automated tanks, aerial drones, and other military equipment that is supposed to give them a grueling but non-lethal testing starts trying to kill them for real. The novel is mostly hard-boiled military action as Torin tries to keep her recruits, with the biological needs of three different species, alive long enough to turn them into a smoothly-operating platoon of real Marines; and find out who has reprogrammed the simulation to kill them all.

The Confederation novels have been compared favorably to the Starship Troopers movie and video game, and Sgt. Torin Kerr to Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in the Aliens movies. There are additional colorful aliens such as the obnoxious interstellar news reporter Presit a Tur durValintrisy, a small furry Katrien who looks vaguely like an otter with frighteningly sharp teeth, chromed claws and tinted sunglasses, who is trying to investigate from offworld who or what is sabotaging Crucible. The Heart of Valor is top-notch suspenseful military science fiction.

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