Victory Conditions: Satisfying conclusion to VATTA’S WAR

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsVictory Conditions by Elizabeth MoonVictory Conditions by Elizabeth Moon

Victory Conditions is the fifth and final book in Elizabeth Moon’s VATTA’S WAR saga. This has been a solidly entertaining story with appealing characters and an unpredictable plot but it never quite pulls itself past its classification of “space opera.” If space opera is what you’re looking for, VATTA’S WAR delivers and this last installment, Victory Conditions, brings the Vatta story to a satisfying end. If you haven’t read the first four books, go find the first book, Trading in Danger. If you’ve read Trading in Danger, Marque and Reprisal, Engaging the Enemy and Command Decision, there’s no reason to stop now.

The pirate responsible for knocking out the ansibles and targeting the Vatta family has been identified — Kylara Vatta finally knows who her enemy is. Working with her competent crew, beautiful cousin Stella, formidable Aunt Grace, and a couple of unexpected allies, Ky sets out to take down Gammis Turek, freeing the universe from his tyranny and getting revenge for what he did to the Vatta family.

Meanwhile Rafe is still on his home planet, trying to run ISC and helping his family through their ordeal. Rafe’s sister Penny, a grieving widow and mother, turns out to be another of Elizabeth Moon’s competent women. When the pirates target their planet, Rafe and Penny get involved with the government’s response.

We all know that our heroes will be successful, but at what price? Despite the book’s name, there’s lots of loss in Victory Conditions. Our heroes will have to make hard decisions and deal with the consequences and the guilt that follows. All of this is piled atop the trouble and grief that’s been stacking up since the first book. Elizabeth Moon successfully shows us that war is a necessary evil and an ugly business — the thrill of victory is more bitter than sweet.

The “flaws” in Victory Conditions are mostly the same ones I’ve noted in the previous books: a few dodgy plot elements, too many meetings with too much dialogue, and way too many plot rehashings (often in the guise of Ky once again explaining her leadership credentials). I also had trouble believing in Ky and Rafe’s romance. It’s been clear for a while that Moon was setting this up, but she never shows us enough evidence of their feelings for each other. Most disappointing, though, is that Moon’s universe never feels substantial. It seems small (it’s easy to find your friends and enemies even when communication has been shut down) and the cultural differences between planets seem silly rather than significant. I am fairly certain that Moon wants them to seem silly (it’s social satire a la Jack Vance) but it doesn’t quite fit the tone of the story.

On the bright side, Victory Conditions includes exciting space battles, a kidnapping, espionage, political and corporate intrigue, assassination attempts, and even a budding romance for teenager Toby Vatta. Some of these subplots — especially the kidnapping and espionage — are resolved way too quickly and I found myself wishing that Moon had stretched them out for more tension. But it all works out okay if you don’t take it too seriously. As “space opera” it works quite well, in fact. If you’ve enjoyed VATTA’S WAR up to this point, I think you’ll be satisfied with its conclusion.

I listened to VATTA’S WAR in audio format. Tantor Audio produced these a few years ago. The narrator, Cynthia Holloway, has a pleasant voice and excellent pacing. She brings Elizabeth Moon’s characters to life. I recommend this version.

Elizabeth Moon’s thrilling Vatta’s War series, featuring the no-holds-barred space-faring heroine Kylara Vatta, has secured her reputation as a master of first-rate military science fiction. Now Commander Vatta is back – locked and loaded and ready to win the fight against the marauding forces of ruthless space pirate Gammis Turek. For Ky, it’s not just about liberating the star systems subjugated by Turek and defending the rest of the galaxy’s freedom. There’s also a score to be settled and payback to be meted out for the obliteration of the Vatta Transport dynasty… and the slaughter of Ky’s family. But the enemy have their own escalation efforts under way–including the placement of covert agents among the allies with whom Ky and the surviving Vattas are collaborating in the war effort. And when a spy ring linked to a wealthy businessman is exposed, a cracked pirate code reveals a galaxywide conspiracy fueling the proliferation of Turek’s warship fleet. Matching the invaders’ swelling firepower will mean marshaling an armada of battle-ready ships for Ky to lead into combat. But a violent skirmish leaves Ky reeling – and presumed dead by her enemies. Now, as Turek readies an all-out attack on the Nexus system – a key conquest that could seal the rest of the galaxy’s doom – Ky must rally to the challenge, draw upon every last reserve of her strategic skills, and reach deep if she is to tear from the ashes of tragedy her most decisive victory.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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