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Victory Conditions: Vatta's War    by Elizabeth Moon order for
Victory Conditions
by Elizabeth Moon
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Victory Conditions is the fifth and final episode in Elizabeth Moon's gripping military SF series, Vatta's War that began with Trading in Danger. The series lead is Kylara Vatta, scion of a powerful interstellar trading clan which, in the second episode, was attacked and almost obliterated at their home base of Slotter Key, at the same time as most interstellar communication ansibles were destroyed.

Through earlier episodes, Ky has gradually pulled together a fleet to fight back against the very organized pirates responsible for the devastation. Her cousin Stella worked to revitalize the Vatta trading empire on Cascadia Station. Her aunt Grace Vatta has taken charge of Slotter Key's Defense Department. And Stella's old flame, black sheep Rafe Dunbarger, has taken over the InterStellar Communications business empire after saving his family from the violence of a corporate coup d'état - and finds ISC corporation executives obdurate in their prejudice against the Vatta family. Busy with all this, Rafe and Ky have had little chance to pursue their strong mutual attraction.

Now, an admiral with over forty ships at her disposal, Ky seeks intel on their enemy, Gammis Turek, needing to decypher his pirate fleet's coded transmissions. Stella struggles with parenting her teen genius nephew Toby, whose first girlfriend's parents are uneasy about their relationship. Zori teaches Toby her family's secret language for private communication at school - and he notices some of the words in the pirate jargon that Ky has asked Stella to decode. There's a kidnapping on Cascadia, terrorist action in the Moray System, a traitor at ISC, and full-scale space battles involving both amateurs and professionals - after one of which the admiral delays spreading the word that rumors of her death have been exaggerated.

Though I enjoy the action in all Elizabeth Moon's SF series, it's the characters that make them must reads for me. Moon has a similar talent to Anne McCaffrey's (to whom she dedicates this book) of making her readers care about her characters' lives and their fates. I liked seeing Rafe's sister Penny bounce back from her ordeal in Command Decision to save her brother from a murder accusation. And Ky Vatta is a well realized and very human heroine who, in addition to being a brilliant strategist, agonizes over her own dark side, suffers post traumatic stress disorder - and celebrates victory by having Rafe 'peel a lime' for her. Vatta's War is high entertainment, highly recommended - don't miss it!

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