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The Better Part of Valor    by Tanya Huff order for
Better Part of Valor
by Tanya Huff
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2002 (2002)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Marines in space has been a popular theme lately, with Ian Douglas' near future Heritage Trilogy and now Tanya Huff's equally entertaining version, further ahead in time, in a universe peopled with a variety of alien races. The Better Part of Valor is second in this recent series, following Valor's Choice. I love the lead character - Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr is the ultimate professional, but takes no nonsense from either her platoon or her superiors.

In the last episode, Torin made the mistake of telling two-star General Morris what she thought of him. Now he's hand-picked her to lead a platoon aboard a gigantic derelict spaceship, protecting a group of scientists tasked with its investigation. Seems simple enough, but of course events quickly spiral out of control. First, there is the political assignment of a 'reckless hotshot' of a captain whose Marines have had a low survival rate. Then a group of meter high Katrien journalists breach security insisting on their right to tag along, as does the scurrilous 'Hans Solo' type salvage operator, Craig Ryder, who found the ship in the first place.

Ryder and Torin strike sparks off each other as soon as they meet, and the development of their relationship makes for entertaining dialogue throughout the story. The fun starts when the scientists pry open an access panel, with a resultant explosion and personnel sinking through the floors. Torin has the challenge of getting them back together and finding their way to an airlock, despite the obstacles (or is it an IQ test?) that the spaceship sends their way. These include a series of skirmishes with the bug-like enemy Others (reminiscent of Aliens)who are also aboard. Torin takes the challenge in her stride, keeps most of her people alive, and even manages to make the captain look good.

The Better Part of Valor is great military SF - a rousing adventure starring an indomitable heroine. This series has me hooked.

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