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Change of Command    by Elizabeth Moon order for
Change of Command
by Elizabeth Moon
Order:  USA  Can
Baen, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Change of Command is part of an ongoing saga of various heroes and heroines set in a universe that Moon has described in previous books such as Hunting Party, Once A Hero and Rules of Engagement. Change of Command is entertaining, and it's always good to spend time with characters like Esmay Suiza, but this story seems unfocussed and does not stand on its own.

It begins with the assassination of the Speaker of the Familias Regnant Lord Thornbuckle, and the takeover of the government by the villain Hobart Conselline. The novel spends a lot of time with the trials and tribulations encountered by Esmay and Barin Serrano in their attempt to marry - family objections, Fleet priorities and even historical surprises. Lady Cecelia flits around the worlds, intervening in various sub-plots and Brun finally grows up and applies her intelligence to Familias politics. There are cameo appearances by Heris and Vida Serrano, Ronnie and Raffa Vandormer and a few Suizas. And some new characters are introduced, the most interesting being the colorful Professor Aidersson and Ranger Katie Anne Briarly, a flamboyant Lone Star Confederation ambassador.

The series has fallen into the common trap of becoming more of a soap than a story, cycling familiar actors on and off the spaceship stage, while developing the reader's knowledge of the universe they inhabit. Previous books had a clear storyline and lots of action focussed on a few main characters. This one seems to be laying the groundwork for the next several, all sub-plots and no story. The first real action falls two thirds of the way through the book and the more serious conflict begins towards the end and is left hanging.

Having said all of that, I'm still a big fan of Moon's works and enjoyed this one, though I am anxious to get to the ending, which I assume will be in Against the Odds (just released in hardcover). If you like the series, you'll appreciate Change of Command but probably find it frustrating. If you're new to it, then start with Once A Hero, or even back at the beginning with Hunting Party. They're great reads, with a beginning and an ending, and tons of space based action in the middle.

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