Review: The Privilege of Peace by Tanya Huff

Review: The Privilege of Peace by Tanya HuffThe Privilege of Peace (Peacekeepers, #3) by Tanya Huff
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Genres: military science fiction, science fiction, space opera
Series: Peacekeeper #3, Confederation #8
Pages: 336
Published by DAW Books on June 19, 2018
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Former space marine Torin Kerr returns for one final adventure to save the Confederation in the last book in the military science fiction Peacekeeper trilogy.

Warden Torin Kerr has put her past behind her and built a life away from the war and everything that meant. From the good, from the bad. From the heroics, from the betrayal. She's created a place and purpose for others like her, a way to use their training for the good of the Confederation. She has friends, family, purpose.

Unfortunately, her past refuses to grant her the same absolution. Big Yellow, the ship form of the plastic aliens responsible for the war, returns. The Silsviss test the strength of the Confederation. Torin has to be Gunnery Sergeant Kerr once again and find a way to keep the peace.

My Review:

If this is truly the end of ex-Gunnery Sergeant now Warden Torin Kerr’s story, I’m going to be very, very sad to see it end. Torin’s story, from its beginning all the way back in Valor’s Choice (nearly 20 years ago, OMG) has been absolutely marvelous.

I began the Valor/Confederation series and the Vatta’s War series at about the same time, so they are both inextricably linked in my memory. They also both finished at the same time, and then revived at about the same time. Wonderful synchronicity.

And they both feature kick-ass, strong, idiosyncratic heroines in vast interstellar space operas. The biggest difference is that Vatta’s War and its sequel series Vatta’s Peace are mercantile space opera, while Confederation/Peacekeeper is strictly military SF.

Torin Kerr begins the series as a Sergeant in the Confederation Marines, and even though at the end of the Confederation series she does manage to retire the sergeant from the Marine Corps, as we, she and her crew discover in An Ancient Peace, the first book in the Peacekeeper sequel series, it is impossible to take the Marine out of the sergeant.

Even in what passes for peacetime, she’s still the Gunny. Mostly. When it counts.

The Privilege of Peace picks up almost immediately after A Peace Divided leaves off. Which means that this is not the place to start. And as much as I loved An Ancient Peace, the first book in the Peacekeeper series, I don’t think that’s the place to start, either. Because this peace, and the characters’ reactions to it, all depend on who and what they were during the late war, and what their relationships to Torin Kerr were during that war. If you enjoy military SF with great characters, terrific world-building and absolutely fantastic heroines, start at the beginning with Valor’s Choice.

And I envy anyone who does a binge-read to “earn” The Privilege of Peace. I’ve read the entire series, but as it was published. Which means that the details of Torin’s history happened even longer ago for me than they do for her. It took awhile for me to get back up to speed on all the names, faces, races, and reasons behind each character’s inclusion in this conclusion.

Because of that “ramp-up” time, the story seemed a bit choppy at points. Lots of characters have similar names, the reader is expected to remember all of their backstory, and the action jumps around a bit. It takes a while to set up the big showdown with “Big Yellow” and the Humans First pukes.

And that’s a hint that there are effectively two different enemies in this book, at least for certain definitions of enemy. Possibly also for certain definitions of factions.

“Big Yellow” turned out to be the enemy of the entire Confederation series. And while the threat of them returning has hung over all of the Peacekeeper series, in Privilege they really are back, and no one is happy about it. But at least now everyone knows that Big Yellow is the big enemy, even if they can’t always recognize its “minions” when they appear. Or disappear. Or hide in plain sight.

That second enemy is the home-grown variety. Humans First will sound familiar in entirely too many contemporary 21st Century ways. They believe that Humans are better than every other race in the galaxy and that the Confederation is holding them back from their greatness. They also believe that violence – along with infiltration and blackmail and other nastinesses – are the way to take their rightful place in the galaxy.

The idea that humans will carry their xenophobia into the stars is more than a bit depressing, but feels all too possible.

Torin and her friends are, as usual, stuck in the middle, caught between the manipulations of Big Yellow, the violence of Humans First, the mind-numbing insanity of Confederation bureaucracy and the secret dreams of the Confederation military.

Peace is a privilege that has to be earned. And as usual, Torin Kerr and her companions are paying for that privilege with their own blood, sweat and hopefully not too many tears.

Escape Rating B: I loved traveling with Torin and Company one more time. Not having just finished a binge of the entire series, it did take a while for me to catch back up, and the longer it has been since the beginning and the more that has happened since that beginning, the longer it seems to take with each book.

The multiple perspectives in The Privilege of Peace made the story seem a bit disjointed at times, but I still liked the journey and felt that the ending was earned. Which means I can only recommend this book to fans of the series. And I still think it is well worth reading the entire series.

The blurbs claim that this is the conclusion of Torin’s journey. If so, I’m sorry to see her go and I’ll miss traveling with her, but she has certainly earned her happy ending. And it is a happy ending – or at least as happy as Torin can manage.

At the same time, there are enough loose, or at least loose-ish, ends that it would be possible for the adventures to continue. And if that occurs, I’ll be glad to watch the Gunny kick more ass and take more names. Anytime. Anyplace. Any galaxy.

Review: A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff + Giveaway

Review: A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff + GiveawayA Peace Divided (Peacekeeper, #2) by Tanya Huff
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Series: Peacekeeper #2, Confederation #7
Pages: 384
Published by DAW Books on June 6th 2017
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The second book in the action-packed Peacekeeper series, a continuation of Tanya Huff's military sci-fi Confederation series following Torin Kerr
Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr had been the very model of a Confederation Marine. No one who'd ever served with her could imagine any circumstance that would see her walking away from the Corps.
But that was before Torin learned the truth about the war the Confederation was fighting...before she'd been declared dead and had spent time in a prison that shouldn't exist...before she'd learned about the "plastic" beings who were really behind the war between the Confederation and the Others. That was when Torin left the military for good.
Yet she couldn't walk away from preserving and protecting everything the Confederation represented. Instead, ex-Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr drew together an elite corps of friends and allies--some ex-Marines, some civilians with unique skills--and together they prepared to take on covert missions that the Justice Department and the Corps could not--or would not--officially touch. But after their first major mission, it became obvious that covert operations were not going to be enough.
Although the war is over, the fight goes on and the Justice Department finds its regular Wardens unable to deal with violence and the people trained to use it. Ex-Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr has a solution: Strike Teams made up of ex-military personnel, small enough to maneuver quickly, able to work together if necessary. Justice has no choice but to implement her idea and Torin puts her team of independent contractors back into uniform. It isn't war, it is policing, but it often looks much the same.
When the scientists doing a preliminary archaeological dig on a Class Two planet are taken hostage, Torin's team is sent to free them. The problem of innocents in the line of fire is further complicated by the fact that the mercenaries holding them are a mix of Confederation and Primacy forces, and are looking for a weapon able to destroy the plastic aliens who'd started and maintained the war.
If Torin weren't already torn by wanting that weapon in play, she also has to contend with the politics of peace that have added members of the Primacy--former enemies--to her team. Before they confront the mercenaries, Torin will have to sift through shifting loyalties as she discovers that the line between"us" and "them" is anything but straight.

My Review:

There’s an absolutely kick-ass military SF story in A Peace Divided. And that story is a marvelous continuance of pretty much everything that has happened to Gunnery Sergeant, now Warden, Torin Kerr from her first introduction in Valor’s Choice to her re-emergence after the end of her war in An Ancient Peace.

So if you enjoy military SF featuring smart, kick-ass, hard-fighting female soldiers (in this case Kerr is an NCO in the Marines), start at the very beginning with Valor’s Choice. And take good notes, because it seems as if everyone she has ever crossed paths with, or even just run into, makes an appearance in A Peace Divided.

Along with her permanent enemies, and the original instigators of the Confederation’s war with the Primacy.

The future, as was once opined to a very young Dustin Hoffman as Ben Braddock in The Graduate, is in plastics. And that future is nowhere near as benign or profitable as his would-be mentor believed.

Unless, as it turns out, you’re running guns.

Like all of the books in this series so far, A Peace Divided is a part of the branch of SF that makes some interesting and peculiar uses of the concept that what you think is happening is not what is really happening. While that seems to have played a major part of the war between the Confederation and the Primacy, and everything that resulted from that war (as well as the uneasy peace that Kerr now finds herself in) it also applies to the action in this particular story, not just on the part of the plastic aliens, but here primarily on the part of the humans and other sentients who drive this story.

It seems that sentient behavior has a limited number of patterns to follow, whether the beings that follow those patterns are humans, Krai, or di’Tayken, or even whether those sentients are two-legged or four-legged, skinned or furred or carapaced, and every other variant that the writer managed to think of.

As one of the sub-themes of this story is about human (and admittedly other sentient) bigotry, it is ironic that part of the story rides on the concept that people are people, no matter what species those people are from.

There’s a lot going on in A Peace Divided. The story that we follow is that of a band of basically space pirates who have taken an entire archaeological team hostage in the possibly mistaken but certainly partly insane belief that the archaeologists have discovered a weapon that can kill the plastic aliens.

And the other part of the story we follow is, of course, that of Warden Torin Kerr and her, if not merry then certainly snarky band of mostly ex-military peace-keeping wardens, as they set out to rescue the archaeologists and take down the space pirates, hopefully with a minimum of bloodshed.

One of the ongoing issues of this series is that “minimum of bloodshed” is defined much, much differently in the police-like Wardens than it ever was in the Confederation Marines. Being a Marine was a whole lot easier. There were rules and there were orders, there was a strict hierarchy, and there was a lot of security in that, both for the Marines and for the ones giving the orders.

Kerr is now out on her own, in a hierarchy whose rules are occasionally very arcane, and where security is minimal. It’s all on her, not because she wants it to be, but because she can’t seem to find any other way to be.

But it is really, really hard to keep the peace when the other side is doing its level best, and its absolute worst, to start a war.

Escape Rating B+: I loved traveling with Torin Kerr and Company again, and I liked the story, but it really needs the dramatis personae listing in the front and with a lot more detail. Or a summary of the action up till now. I’ve read the whole series, absolutely loved the whole thing, but occasionally I got lost among all the names, races and faces.

Once things get down to the brass-tacks, it klicks along like a ship in warp drive, but it takes a while to get there. I expect that people who are binge-reading the whole series and have everything fresh in their minds are going to eat this one up with a spoon, because it feels like everybody who has ever touched Torin’s life gets at least a mention.

Underneath the story, there are at least three sub-themes going on, one more overt than the other two. And they all add depth to the action, as well as making the reader think about the book well after the last page.

The first, biggest and most obvious is the issue of the returning veterans. Like our own society, the Confederation has done an all too excellent job of training young people, for any and all definitions of people, to set aside their fears and their instincts and become effective and efficient killing machines. The problem they have, just like the one we have, is what to do with those killing machines after their war is over. And just like our own society, the Confederations equivalent of the VA is overworked and understaffed and some people slip through the cracks. Admittedly some also make a hole and dive out, but there are a lot of folks who need help and don’t get the help they need. And a lot of the people that Kerr finds herself dealing with are her former comrades who fell through those cracks and can’t find a way to adjust to being civilians. Kerr and her troupe have plenty of problems with re-adjustment themselves, and they all have each other.

The Marines have a code that they leave no soldier behind. As an NCO, Kerr carried the remains of too many of her soldiers out on her vest, and she’s still carrying them. That there are soldiers that the entire military seems to have left behind feels like failure. Only because it is.

And of course, those folks who are desperate and haven’t adjusted get used by others for their own nefarious ends.

The other two sub-theme layers are about gun control and bigotry. They are more subtle, and it is easy to let them go in the heat of the story, but they are definitely there. And they add color and texture to a story that could have just been gung-ho military SF, but ends up being so much more.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Thanks to DAW Books, I am giving away one copy each of An Ancient Peace and A Peace Divided.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Shadowed Souls edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes

Review: Shadowed Souls edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. HughesShadowed Souls by Kerrie L. Hughes, Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, Kevin J. Anderson, Rob Thurman, Tanya Huff, Kat Richardson, Anton Strout, Lucy A. Snyder, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Erik Scott de Bie
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 352
Published by Roc on November 1st 2016
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In this dark and gritty collection—featuring short stories from Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, Kevin J. Anderson, and Rob Thurman—nothing is as simple as black and white, light and dark, good and evil..
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what makes it so easy to cross the line.

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher’s Cold Case, Molly Carpenter—Harry Dresden’s apprentice-turned-Winter Lady—must collect a tribute from a remote Fae colony and discovers that even if you’re a good girl, sometimes you have to be bad...
New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s Sleepover finds half-succubus Elsie Harrington kidnapped by a group of desperate teenage boys. Not for anything “weird.” They just need her to rescue a little girl from the boogeyman. No biggie.
In New York Times bestselling Kevin J. Anderson’s Eye of Newt, Zombie P.I. Dan Shamble’s latest client is a panicky lizard missing an eye who thinks someone wants him dead. But the truth is that someone only wants him for a very special dinner...
And New York Times bestselling author Rob Thurman’s infernally heroic Caliban Leandros takes a trip down memory lane as he deals wih some overdue—and nightmarish—vengeance involving some quite nasty
Impossible Monsters
.
ALSO INCLUDES STORIES BYTanya Huff * Kat Richardson * Jim C. Hines * Anton Strout * Lucy A. Snyder * Kristine Kathryn Rusch * Erik Scott de Bie *
From the Trade Paperback edition.

My Review:

Shadowed Souls seemed like an absolutely perfect book to review for Halloween. This is a collection of slightly creepy, slightly spooky urban fantasy stories where all the heroes are anti- and all of the action is conducted in the darker shades of gray. And by gray I mean cases where the heroes commit acts that may seem villainous, or at least questionable, in order to prevent an even greater evil.

These are stories where the ends actually do justify the means, as long as you like your means on the dark and grim side of the equation.

Most story collections have hits and misses. It’s the nature of the beast. That’s not true in this case. All of the stories in Shadowed Souls are at least very good, and many rise to excellent, sometimes hauntingly so.

While I liked every story in this collection, there are a few that stood out from the ghostly crowd.

Tanya Huff’s If Wishes Were is a return to the world of her Vicki Nelson series, 20 years after the end of Blood Debt. Victoria Nelson has been a vampire for 20 years, and looks permanently in her mid-30s. But the man who keeps Vicki tied to her humanity, Mike Cellucci, is now pushing 60. Vicki is forced to face the inevitable future, that the man she loves will die, possibly of his current injuries, but certainly in what will, to her, seem like a short and painful 20 or 30 years. Even if Mike were willing to become a vampire, it is no solution. If he changes, they will be forced to part. If he dies, they will be forced to part. When a villain tempts Vicki with a third choice, she has to decide just how much she is willing to sacrifice to retain what’s left of her humanity – along with what’s left of her heart.

This story is haunting and bittersweet, and resonates both with Vicki’s particular situation, and for anyone who has faced the inevitable loss of a loved one.

Sales. Force. by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is definitely a story from the dark side of the house. Like If Wishes Were, this is also a story about love and loss. And not just the loss of love but also the loss of humanity. The revenge in this story is served icy cold. Even as the reader shivers with that cold, one is left with the feeling that it wasn’t enough. That as dark as this ending is, nothing would be enough. Read it and weep.

In all of the deep and dark and serious in this collection, there is one ray of light. Definitely call it gallows humor. Eye of Newt by Kevin J. Anderson is a short story set in his Dan Shamble series, and it is laugh out loud, read out loud to your partner, funny. In this definitely urban fantasy series, where the private investigator is a zombie, his girlfriend is a ghost, and nearly every name is a pun, the author manages to set up both a mystery and a riotous send up of TV cooking shows at the same time. You will laugh until your sides ache. And want more of the series.

Escape Rating A: I don’t DO this for collections. There are always at least a couple of stories that fail for me. But not this time. The stories are all different. Except for Eye of Newt, they all reside creepily in the neighborhood of dark urban fantasy. And they are all at the least compelling, if not absolutely enthralling.

Read this one with the lights on, and have a scary good time.

Happy Halloween!

Review: An Ancient Peace by Tanya Huff

Review: An Ancient Peace by Tanya HuffAn Ancient Peace (Peacekeeper, #1) by Tanya Huff
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Series: Confederation #6, Peacekeeper #1
Pages: 336
Published by DAW on October 6th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr had been the very model of a Confederation Marine. But when she learned the truth about the war the Confederation was fighting, she left the military for good.

But Torin couldn’t walk away from preserving and protecting everything the Confederation represented. Instead, she drew together an elite corps of friends and allies to take on covert missions that the Justice Department and the Corps could not—or would not—officially touch. Torin just hoped the one they were about to embark on wouldn’t be the death of them.

Ancient H’san grave goods are showing up on the black market—grave goods from just before the formation of the Confederation, when the H’san gave up war and buried their planet-destroying weapons...as grave goods for the death of war. Someone is searching for these weapons and they’re very close to finding them. As the Elder Races have turned away from war, those searchers can only be members of the Younger Races.

Fortunately, only the Corps Intelligence Service has this information. Unfortunately, they can do nothing about it—bound by laws of full disclosure, their every move is monitored.

Though Torin Kerr and her team are no longer a part of the military, the six of them tackling the H’san defenses and the lethally armed grave robbers are the only chance the Confederation has. The only chance to avoid millions more dead.

But the more Torin learns about the relationship between the Elder Races and the Younger, the more she begins to fear war might be an unavoidable result.

valors choice by tanya huffI love Tanya Huff’s Valor series. Yes, I know it’s really called the Confederation series, but in my head, it’s the Valor series. It’s all about the valor of Staff Sergeant (eventually Gunnery Sergeant) Torin Kerr of the Confederation Marines in her fight to bring her company back alive and discover who or what is really behind the interstellar war between the Confederation and the Primacy. In addition to being absolutely kick-ass military SF, the Valor Confederation series is also a standout in the long line of SF where what we think is going on has absolutely nothing to do with what is actually going on. If you have not yet had the pleasure, start with Valor’s Choice and settle in for a marvelous read starring a terrific character with a dry, laugh-out-loud, line of snark.

But Torin’s discovery that the long-running interstellar war is really a behavioral experiment on the part of some completely uninvolved alien bystanders excises some of Torin’s faith in her military, and pretty much all of her ability to follow orders without question. However, while you can take the woman out of the Marines, it turns out to be impossible to take the Marines out of the woman. Torin works better within a structure, even as she mostly goes her own way.

In An Ancient Peace, we see Torin still fighting the good fight, but this time on her own terms, especially because she is in the process of redefining what that”good fight” really is. And since she no longer has the structure of the Marines to operate in, she is looking for a way for her team to find a home and purpose in one of the structures that already exist.

Because it turns out that the Confederation is still being manipulated, the only question is whether that manipulation is coming from somewhere within, or from forces without. Or whether “Big Yellow” is still watching them.

Escape Rating A: The Valor Confederation series is one of my all-time favorite military SF series, along with Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War, Jean Johnson’s Theirs Not to Reason Why, and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. These are all thinking people’s military SF, because the protagonists all question what they are doing and why, even as they do their best to operate within the structure and safeguard as much as possible the lives within their care.

The Confederation was a classic of the “aliens are pulling strings from the shadows” school of SF. At the same time, Torin Kerr offers a terrific perspective of a senior NCO in the military, even the SF military. It’s not her job to determine or execute grand strategy, it’s her job to keep green lieutenants alive long enough for them to contribute to grand strategy. And most importantly, it is her job to keep her squad alive to come back home. One of the ongoing themes of the series and especially this book is that Torin isn’t able to let go of the dead she wasn’t able to save.

That she now knows that the war was an alien scam just adds to her feelings of guilt, along with an unhealthy dose of survivor’s remorse.

But this story is about Torin both finding a place for her and her team to fit into the new universe order, but also about Torin figuring out where she fits into a team that she leads by adoption rather than by assignment. Everyone is with her because they want to be, not because someone cut them orders. And Torin has to find a slightly different leadership strategy to make it all work.

At the same time, Torin and her band of merrymakers have a job to do. The High Command still uses Torin, but as a private contractor. And this time, they are sending her team in on a job where they want plausible deniability.

Someone is selling artifacts that were stolen from the cemetery planet of one of the Elder Races. It is clear to the military that someone is hunting for the weapons of mass destruction that the H’san buried with their long-ago dead. The military is certain that whoever that someone is, their plan is to start a new universal war. And as collateral damage, they will feed into the paranoia of the Elder Races who believe that Humans and all of the other Younger Races they brought into the Confederation to fight their war for them are really too barbaric and savage to remain in the Confederation now that there is no more need for warriors.

Of course, nothing is as it seems. Not the thefts, not the supposed plot, and not even the Elder Races. However, as Torin discovers there is a whole lot of war weariness among the general inner-ring populace, especially all the members of those Elder and Middle-Races planets who were not touched by the war because the Younger Races fought it for them. Those who were very far behind the lines really are thinking that the Younger Races are uncivilized savages who should be locked into their own planets until they learn better.

Any parallels between the way that the Elder Races populations treat Torin and her team as representatives both of their races and of the returning war veterans and the way that we treat returning soldiers who have difficulty fitting back into peacetime society is certainly intended.

The story in An Ancient Peace is certainly the adrenaline-fueled adventure that I have come to know, love and expect from this series. There is also an underlying thread that Torin’s eyes have been opened, and that she sees a lot more of both sides of any problem than her superiors expect or even like. Her solution to finding a place for her team that both keeps them from being used as a weapon and helps add to the peace that she almost single-handedly created is novel, and will provide ground for interesting stories in the future.

And just like in the earlier series, whoever or whatever started this particular mess is still out there, plotting more plots, until Torin and Company finally catch up to them.