Command Decision is the fourth installment in Elizabeth Moon’s VATTA’S WAR series. Things are starting to look up for Kylara Vatta, her cousin Stella, and their Aunt Grace. Ky, who has proven herself a skilled military commander and is gaining respect, still has to deal with a lot of bureaucratic silliness, but she sees more action in this book. Stella has (thankfully) rebounded from her pity party and is now the capable CEO of Vatta Enterprises. Young Toby turns out to be a genius with the on-board ansibles and is able to provide engineering skills. Grace has destroyed the corrupt Slotter Key government and put herself in a high-level position.
However, the pirates who destroyed the Vatta family are still a major threat to the entire universe — they’re knocking out ansibles and taking over planetary governments and nobody is doing anything about it. That’s because 1. There is no interstellar space navy to deal with the pirates and 2. ISC forbids planets to fix their own ansibles. Thus there is no communication between the different planetary systems, which means governments can’t get information about what’s happening on other planets and they can’t coordinate efforts to mount an effective defense.
Ky, realizing this problem, hopes to gather enough allies to destroy the pirates. They need to strategize and get themselves equipped with excellent weapons and communications systems, so in Command Decision expect the usual rounds of meetings, video conferences, equipment installations, etc. There are also a few exciting military engagements. Elizabeth Moon adds some levity by bringing Ky a rich flamboyant ship captain who’s living out his romantic dream of being a space hero even to the point of dressing and speaking the part. Kudos to Moon for not taking this subplot in the direction I thought she was going to take it.
Rafe, whose father is the head of ISC, is also worried about the broken ansibles. Why hasn’t ISC repaired them yet? And why hasn’t he heard from his family? When he goes to his home planet to find out what’s going on, he gets a really nasty surprise. This storyline is prominent in this book and most readers will appreciate getting to know Rafe better.
Command Decision delivers what I was expecting from this series. On the positive side that’s strong heroines, likeable secondary characters, unpredictable plot, ethical dilemmas and big things (the universe) at stake. Weaknesses are some contrived plot elements, weak world-building, and repetitive narrative and dialog. For example, it is common for us to witness a series of events and then to hear one of the characters tell the events to another character and possibly even a third character. (One time this came in handy when I realized my mind was wandering and I had missed something, but before I could rewind the audiobook one of the characters called another and recapped the events I missed.) Taking out this repetition could have made the series a book shorter and, therefore, better.
At the end of Command Decision we see things winding up for what I hope will be a spectacular finish. I’m moving on to the final episode, Victory Conditions, and expect to be entertained.