Kris Longknife – Deserter (Kris Longknife II) – Mike Shepherd

A marked improvement over Mutineer, Deserter has Kris Longknife run to the rescue of her best friend Tom. The story is a bit hazy, with an “evil dude” trying to kill Kris. Mayhem ensues. As a little side note, the title is only vaguely descriptive. I guess they had to come up with something in one word.

The story flows more smoothly in this second installment. There is a lot (and I do mean a LOT) or banter between the main characters. Many other books would have sagged under the weight of all that conversation, but Shepherd is skilled at conversations between intelligent, witty people. Real people probably don’t talk that way, but strangely that doesn’t detract from the fun.

Some aspects of Mutineer still hold true. This is very much space opera and all about the characters. Mostly fun action with engaging characters who have real flaws.

Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroine’s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.

Kris Longknife – Mutineer (Kris Longknife I) – Mike Shepherd

Ensign Longknife is the scion of a great family. Her father is the Prime Minister of an important world. Her grandparents and great grandparents are equally exalted. She tries to defy family tradition, only to find that she is following it in her own way. Most of the book sets up her character for the final part where she forestalls a serious crisis by becomeing the book’s titular mutineer. Longknife is definitely a rich girl, and she has had all the advantages and disadvantages of that heritage. She is not perfect, and therein lies much of her charm. Shepherd takes pains to explain how she has become who she is. And it is important since her character shapes the story greatly.

The backstory is very dense, but Shepherd only gives it to us from Longknife’s perspective. The volume of information about politics, family history and human history coming at the reader is at times almost overwhelming. I was half tempted to start taking notes. It is a fine line that Shepherd walks. On the one hand the backstory is important to the main action. On the other hand he risks alienating the reader. Still, it is refreshing to see an author avoid the dreaded datadumps that Weber and even Flint are using nowadays. Now those will bore a reader. At least here the action keeps moving forward as the author correctly assumes that the reader can handle the flood without needing his hand held through painstaking and tedious exposition of half a dozen arguments and counter-arguments. Kudos to Shepherd.

The technology is very space operatic with nothing very surprising. The quirks are really in service of the plot. Shepherd treads a fine line as deus ex machina threatens but he avoids breaking the rules of his own oniverse once he has set them.

While this isn’t exactly the beginning of the Honor series, it is quite an auspicious start. Kris Longknife is a fascinating and engaging character.

Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroine’s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.