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Valor's Choice    by Tanya Huff order for
Valor's Choice
by Tanya Huff
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2000 (2000)
* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

An important sub-genre in science fiction is military SF; naval such as David Weber's very popular Honor Harrington space war series, or army exemplified by novels such as David Drake's Hammer's Slammers. Further sub-genres are based either on alternative history, or, for example, on army units like a Roman century being transported through Time and / or Space.

A few writers take real historical characters or incidents and transform them as a basis for otherwise completely new stories. The S.M. Stirling / David Drake collaboration on The General series (based very loosely on the life of Belisarius) is probably the best example. This Tanya Huff novel is in the same category, as the author explains in an End Note (which I caution you not to read first, if you are a military history buff).

The heroine of the story is Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr, who is sent in charge of her platoon of Marines, and of her very new and inexperienced Second Lieutenant, as an honor guard to accompany a diplomatic mission. The object of the mission is to persuade a recently discovered and very aggressive reptilian race to join the Confederation, which is mired in a life and death struggle against the Others.

There are political wheels within wheels within wheels which result in the squad, encumbered with Confederacy diplomats of various races, being stranded in an area of the planet set aside for the younger males to overcome their overly aggressive instincts by internecine conflict. Staff Sergeant Kerr finds herself and her fifty strong platoon surrounded by thousands of battle crazed young fanatics, against whom the platoon's superior weaponry is only of limited effectiveness.

The action filled battle sequences are well done, but what gives this novel its special cachet is the strong characterisation, both of the humans and their alien allies. Unusually, two alien races are represented in the platoon (including the Second Lieutenant) and the interaction between them all is very well handled. Valor's Choice is several levels above the usual run of the mill effort in military science fiction.

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