Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Once a Hero by Elizabeth Moon - review

Once a Hero
Elizabeth Moon
Serrano Legacy#4
Sci/Fi  =  1997

I don't really want to rate this one - how about... ****

Cover - As far as depicting a space battle, and featuring the women characters, this does it.  The woman in the back even looks hard as hell.  Kind of grumpy and angry, also.  Maybe it's being in the middle of a battle.  maybe she doesn't like the woman in front of her....Maybe she's just cranky.  LOL - of course, it's the battle.  I don't think there's going to be a lot of smiling and pleasantries in the midst of a huge space battle. :)

I enjoy a good SciFi novel; especially one that features a woman who is strong and can take things in stride, learning along the way, etc.  I also enjoy the whole SciFi feel - the space travel, the talk of FTL travel, all the little gadgetry  - nano bots, etc - that go into a book concerning the future and all the possibilities.    It's even better when it's obvious that the author knows his or her science but DOES NOT ram it down our throats in the form of pages and pages of science lectures and ''learnin' ''.  

Elizabeth Moon does pretty good with this - her women are strong, her science explanations are mostly short and sweet, incorporated in the story.  I think she even avoids those pesky long-winded conversations when two characters are discussing theory in their sneaky way of TEACHING the reader something sciencey. EXCEPT-during some conversations with a therapist.  Needed, but a little much for me.  However -  Her characters are pretty close to being a Mary Sue type of character.

Now, I don't think that Elizabeth Moon necessarily WANTS to be a young woman who is perfect in space.  But her character is so close to perfectly unassuming, not appreciating her own knowledge or strengths, possibly keeping them hidden even from her self - that it's almost nauseating.....Despite this...

I did enjoy the story for the story's sake.  The narration dialog between characters were fun to read - engaging.  Her main character, Esme was saved from being a complete Mary Sue by her RAGE...this rage that she kept tamping down because she had to be in complete control of herself at all much in control that she picked a boring non-glorious career track that she wasn't really suited for.

 The books starts out with her facing a court-martial.  Seems she was involved in a mutiny - a ship she was on had a little situation, the crew mutinied against the captain, who was possibly a traitor.  So that whole thing had to sorted out - and this young woman, fresh from academy was in a situation where she ended up having to CAPTAIN the ship herself,  made a decision to go into a battle and save another ship, making some mistakes (saving her from being so perfect), but ultimately being hailed as a hero.

AND - she's so unassuming, that she suspects everyone who makes friendly advances toward her.  She doesn't really believe that anyone really wants to be her friend.  She is suspicious of almost everyone wanting to be around her because of her notoriety (which, ironically, seems to be mix of extreme low selfesteem and extreme high opinion of her fame...).  Sometimes people are just friendly, lady!  Sometimes.

She ends up going home - where she ends up finding out something that has been hidden from her - something pretty damaging and something that has affected her whole life.  It's a major spoiler, so you can't read about it here.  But, she feels betrayed by her father and family and feels this  RAGE.  perfectly justified.  (she had been dealing with nightmares her whole life, they popped back up after the space battle)

After her trip home, she's reassigned to a deep space ship repair goliath of a space craft.  One that is so huge that even long term employees have a hard time finding their way around.  Of course, once there - she's noticed by many people, some of them top brass, and most of them have high opinions of her - seeing right through to her potential.  This part kind of bothered me ---- it seemed a little improbable - but what the hell, this is a piece of fiction, and as such has the right to be a bit fairy tale-like.  There was one - the captain of the goliath, that did not like her, was pretty dead set against having her there, didn't trust her because of the mutiny background.  So that was refreshing.  And her immediate supervisor, or commanding officer - was pretty grumpy to her, even though she secretly was awed by the perfect shininess of Esme and her wonderful abilities that were deeply hidden, except during the mutiny and following space battle....

Once again, there is nefarious plotting going on, and this huge thing - this goliath of a space craft comes under attack.  And circumstances pave the way for Esme once again to be the young inexperienced person that everyone - no matter how many other experienced people were on this ship - to be the one that ultimately saves the day.  It's all explained, sabotage and attacks, isolation of many of the crew from each other, murder, etc.  

Even though I found some parts of the novel to be "oh please, sure this would happen"; even though I found some of the characters oh so predictable (the grumpy supervisor, the greedy villians, the hateful captain, etc)  I did enjoy the story, because no matter what, and no matter how improbable, Moon can tell a good story.  It's entirely possible that part of the story was supposed to show how silly perceptions can be - Esme's self-perception, her crippling way of shying away from her own abilities, her family's perception of the way things should be, her captains's perception of her mutiny, etc.  Something about her style and her characters made me want to keep reading til the end.   There was some eye rolling going on while I read, for sure, but still -  I want to read more from this series....

This is a Serrano Legacy novel - there are quite a few other books in the Serrano series, however, in this particular novel, the Serranos did not have a huge presence as characters.  There is the Serrano that was involved in the mutiny, but you only read about her.  There is an Admiral Serrano that interacts with Esme for a short time, and then there is the young male Serrano.  He befriends Esme, and is one Serrano who definitely feels the heavy mantle of the Serrano expectations and legends weighing him down, expecting so much out of him...He doesn't play a huge part - but is a good friend to Esme.

Oh, I know there are better SciFi writers out there - I've read them (Tanya Huff's Valor series, Laura E Reeves' Minoan Space series, Marianne de Pierres' Nylon Angel and her Orion series, R.M. Meluch and her USS Merrimack series and Elizabeth Bear's Jenny Casey series - love that one....) but STILL - I enjoyed this book and would like to read more. There's just something about Elizabeth Moon's books that I like despite myself.  :)

Bottom line.  An extremely readable book with charm.  There are some heavy subjects - but nothing too graphic.

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