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Engaging the Enemy:
Vatta's War #3

by Elizabeth Moon

(US: Del Rey, 416 pages; $25.95, hardback, March 2006; $7.99, paperback, January 2007. UK: Orbit, £6.99, 464 pages, paperback, March 2006.)

Review by Peter D Tillman

cover scan: US editionElizabeth Moon's current space-opera series is really hitting its stride in this outing, which kept me up until the wee hours. Protagonist Ky Vatta is starting to get a handle on the bad guys who massacred most of her family on their homeworld, Slotter's Key. She's also getting comfortable with commanding the armed merchantman she recaptured from a rogue Vatta cousin -- the rogue leads her to the apparent mastermind behind the attack, and the newly-unified pirate fleet that's starting to attack and annex isolated worlds [1]. Ky is trying to organize a privateer response, but the privateers get off to a very rough start. To be continued....

Back home on Slotter's Key, Crazy Aunt Grace is hot on the trail of the bent politicians who let the raiders slip through the planet's space-defense net, and the trail is leading right to the top of the planetary government....

Moon's writing just keeps getting better -- in this book, the quality of writing, world-building and characterization are getting into the Bujold zone, high praise indeed. The catch for new readers is that Engaging the Enemy definitely isn't a standalone -- in fact, the opening follows so hard on the heels of 2004's Marque and Reprisal that these two books could cover scan: UK editionbe considered a single novel. While the first two books of Vatta's War were decent and worth reading, they never quite clicked for me. With Engaging the Enemy, Moon is back to writing something closer to pure mil-SF, her home comfort-zone, and the next volume is likely to be even purer. Newcomers may want to quickly breeze through the first two books to catch up to the Good Stuff. And, if you've already read the first two Vatta's War books, you're in for a real treat.

Other opinions:

"This is the kind of space opera I love best: complicated, fast-paced, full of nifty sfnal tropes that have interesting consequences. Political shenanigans complete the big picture, but Elizabeth Moon never forgets the small, human moments..." --Sherwood Smith [2],

"Engaging the Enemy is consummate military-adventure science fiction, with a distinctly female viewpoint, and further establishes Elizabeth Moon as one of the most accomplished authors in the subgenre." -- D. Douglas Fratz,

[Note 1] -- the first of which was the planet Bissonet, named after a street near the Rice University campus, where Moon & I both studied in the late Pleistocene.... [back to review]

[2] -- who is a she, which I hadn't realized until reading her fine review. [back to review]

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