Command Decision: Delivers what I was expecting

science fiction book reviews Elizabeth Moon Vatta's War 1. Trading in Danger 2. Marque and Reprisal 3. Engaging the Enemy 4. Command Decision 5. Victory Conditions Command Decision by Elizabeth MoonCommand Decision by Elizabeth Moon

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.

With the Vatta’s War series, award-winning author Elizabeth Moon has claimed a place alongside such preeminent writers of military science fiction as David Weber and Lois McMaster Bujold. Now Moon is back–and so is her butt-kicking, take-no-prisoners heroine, Kylara Vatta. Once the black-sheep scion of a prosperous merchant family, Kylara now leads a motley space force dedicated to the defeat of a rapacious pirate empire led by the mysterious Gammis Turek. After orchestrating a galaxy-wide failure of the communications network owned and maintained by the powerful ISC corporation, Turek and his marauders strike swiftly and without mercy. First they shatter Vatta Transport. Then they overrun entire star systems, growing stronger and bolder. No one is safe from the pirate fleet. But while they continue to move forward with their diabolical plan, they have made two critical mistakes. Their first mistake was killing Kylara Vatta’s family. Their second mistake was leaving her alive. Now Kylara is going to make them pay. But with a “fleet” consisting of only three ships–including her flagship, the Vanguard, a souped-up merchant cruiser – Kylara needs allies, and fast. Because even though she possesses the same coveted communication technology as the enemy, she has nowhere near their numbers or firepower. Meanwhile, as Kylara’s cousin Stella tries to bring together the shattered pieces of the family trading empire, new treachery is unfolding at ISC headquarters, where undercover agent Rafael Dunbarger, estranged son of the corporation’s CEO, is trying to learn why the damaged network is not being repaired. What he discovers will send shock waves across the galaxy and crashing into Kylara’s newly christened Space Defense Force at the worst possible moment.

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KAT HOOPER is a professor at the University of North Florida where she teaches neuroscience, psychology, and research methods courses. She occasionally gets paid to review scientific textbooks, but reviewing speculative fiction is much more fun. Kat lives with her husband and their children in Jacksonville Florida.

View all posts by Kat Hooper

One comment

  1. Thanks for reviewing these, Kat! I’ve enjoyed reading them.

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