Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Better Part of Valor by Tanya Huff - review

The Better Part of Valor
Military SciFi
Tanya Huff

cover - okay, here is a little taste of what a couple of the species look like in the Valor novels. It's always nice to have an idea, because it's not always easy to picture what's described without a little artistic help (have I ever mentioned how much I appreciate artists - including painters, drawers, some sculptors - haha, singers, song writers and of course BOOK WRITERS?) what you see pictured on this cover is the inside of the alledgedly abandoned ship that Torin and her co. end up going to investigate.

Even though I read this about a month ago, taking a very long time to review, I enjoyed the hell out of this book. In fact, I went into a serious reading frenzy. Taking a chance, I had bought the first four novels in this series (two of them in the omnibus edition, giving me a two for the price of one deal). I'm usually not really into military type of anything - I appreciate armies that do their best to protect, hopefully as humanely as possible - but it's just not really my usual reading interests. However, I've found myself almost obsessed with this particular series. It must have something to do with the strong female figure, in charge even as she's subordinate to her superior officers combined with Tanya Huff's unique sense of humor, writing style and the way she writes her dialogue. In about three weeks I had read all the Valor novels, and it only took me that long because I had a few other obligations and grandchildren. As of now, there's only one more book in the series and it's in (sob - sob) H/B. I cannot afford hardback, but it is calling my name. What I need is a damn good coupon...

This series - Confederation series - It is far, far into the future. So far, in fact that there are many planets that have been colonised, terraformed, or discovered - all in different phases of advancement. It is so far advanced, that a lot of terms and phrases we take for granted don't make any sense because of technical advance, such as "rubber-stamp it". Nobody seems to know what an actual rubber stamp is, or what it was used for. One of the characters in the first two novels is full of these type of sayings. One of the fun quirks of Huff's writing. There are also entire universes (I might have the wrong term) at war with each other. The Marines are still the marines, but they do a lot of space travel, of course, to get back and forth. The Navy is the branch that runs the space ships - kind of like the navy has water ships now, just a different venue. The Navy and the Marines have, naturally, a kind of rivalry going on - I'm sure they do now in fact.

There is at least three main species of being in the Marines, one of them human. One is a tallish green tinted people who all have differently colored tenticles on their heads that look like hair, but move around according to mood/agitation - the colors are turquoise, green, fuschia, orange, etc. Their eyes are also pretty cool colors, and they can see much better than humans. They also emit a very strong pheromone that affects all other species, and sex is a strong part of their culture - they're known for making suggestive comments. If one doesn't make suggestive comments, then it's a clue that they're either sick or dead and they have to wear "maskers" to tone down the pheromones so others can function around them. Regardless of this, Tanya Huff doens't use this to write all kinds of sex scenes in her novels, it's just part of the personalities of this particular species. One of the other species live in trees, hate to wear shoes, are kind of small yet strong and can use their feet like hands. They also eat just about anything - making for interesting converstions between all three.

In the first book - Valor's Choice, Torin Kerr, a Staff Sargeant in the Marines was part of a diplomatic mission gone wrong. One of her final actions involved punching the general - it needed to be done- but she also made a comment referring to parentage. Apparently he has remembered this. In The Better Part of Valor, the General orders her away from her regular platoon into an investigation of an apparently abandoned huge spaceship. Either he's punishing her for her previous actions, or he's using her skills - trusting that she's the best person for the job, since they are going into an unknown situation. Never know with a general. Seems a salvage operator (space style salvage operators - keeping open space clean by recycling broken and destroyed spaceship pieces and detritus) left suzumi space (similar to FTL travel) finding this large vessel just floating. Scans revealed no life forms. A scientific team is going to take a look at it, study it with the marines in attendance for safety. Torin is assigned a group of marines who have all been hand selected from a wide variety of other platoons. Their's is a top-secret mission to keep scientists safe while they try to find out what exactly this huge bright yellow ship is. Because it doens't even scan as any metal or plastic that they've ever come across before. Unfortunately, complications arise almost immediately.

From the moment they enter the ship, strange things begin to happen. First an explosion occurs, caused by the scientists deciding to drill into the wall. It kills almost all the scientists. Then Torin and the salvage operator fall through the floor - slowly.

After this, they have to find their way to a new port, since the shuttle they came on and the airlock were destroyed in the initial blast. Their way seems to be complicated and yet when they most need it the most, they get a break in the form of a shortened passageway, or a sudden room. Creepily, the compartments and passageways start to feel familiar - they seem to have been taken right from their memories. Torin and the salvage operator finally get together with the remnants of their crew and they all, including a reporter who has invited herself along the expedition, continue to try to make their way to another airlock, with out the aid of any outside communications - they've been left without contact and with few supplies. It soon becomes apparent that there is another almost similar group going through the same thing - the confederation's eniemies called "the others".

Something fishy is going on. I enjoyed the dialogue between the characters very much. The twists and turns they went through along with the story of what was going on in the ship that they came on, the discovery of the enemies on the other side of the huge abandoned ship. It all added up to one hell of a novel. I've gone into more of the meat of the story than I usually do. I found it a very engaging and entertaining novel. As usual, I found all the characters fascinating - the irritating characters as well as the characters that were doing their best to get through their situation. There was a great variety of personalities. Loved it.

As soon as I finished The Better Part of Valor, I was grabbing The Heart Of Valor, #3 off my shelf. I am really looking forward to reading the fifth in the series and hope that Tany Huff has plans for more.

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