Sunday Book Review: Vatta’s War

So. I bought this book called Victory Conditions during my last stop the Borders Books & Music near the Jo-Ann’s Fabrics in Columbia, Maryland. I would browse the books while my better half browsed fabrics for her business. Of course, during this visit, the shelves had become nearly barren (and everything hopelessly out of order, but you can hardly expect the inmates on death row to take a huge interest in keeping their cell neat with their execution day coming hard upon).

I had thought Elizabeth Moon’s Victory Conditions to be a likely space opera type of book. A quick glance did not necessarily prove it to be later book in a series – it could have been a stand alone novel beginning en media res.

Alas, it was not. In fact, Victory Conditions is the fifth (and final) book in Moon’s Vatta’s War series.

But should I really say ‘alas?’ After all, anything the encourages anyone in America (or the world) to read some more is surely a good thing? Even me, who believes himself to be a pretty prolific reader.

So not ‘alas.’ Merely ‘is the fifth (and final) book in Moon’s Vatta’s War series.’ As comics who make fun of Martha Stewart say, ‘it’s a good thing.’

Being obstinate and a sucker for diving into sci fi and fantasy series that will take me too long to finish by half, I did not resist to urge to finish this thing that, in all honesty, I hadn’t really started. It was more like an urge to turn a $3.00 investment into something closer to $35.00 (once I’d bought the first four books).

It’s finally over. I finished.

Was it worth it? Well, I won’t be reading them again, who reads a series of more than two or three books again? Except for Lewis’ beloved (by me, at least) The Chronicles of Narnia and the first four books of Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice (I was preparing for the long awaited fifth book, not realizing that it’s actually release would still be some two years then), not many (I would, of course, include the much read by me Lord of the Rings, if you add The Hobbit to make it a quartet – though I’ve only read The Silmarillion once). I’ll be taking them down to my neighborhood used bookstore (Capitol Hill Books) and exchanging them for store credit that I will use to buy more sci fi and fantasy.

But this was a solid series. Solid writing. The arc was unimaginative, in terms of the narrative structure within each book (the location of various set pieces within each book was pretty standard), though the twists and challenges Moon placed in front of her heroine and her assembled heroes was often surprising. The world building is well done and thorough, though also more workmanlike to truly original or inventive. The final book was disappointing in that the big finale – the epic last space battle against the pirates – was neither very tense nor vividly depicted. The earlier space battles in previous books were typically both, so this was a bit of an unfortunate aberration, especially unfortunate because it was the author’s last chance to reward her dedicated readers of this series.

I would recommend it to someone who enjoy old school science fiction with cool space battles, though I would not suggest it as an entry point into the genre (that would have to be either a short story by Asimov or Bradbury or a novel by LeGuin).

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