Valor’s Choice (Confederation I) – Tanya Huff

Torin Kerr is a First Sergeant in the Confereration Marines. A century and a half previously, Earth was contacted by the alien Confereration. It seemed the Confederation was in a bit of a pickle. An enemy known as The Others was attacking Confederation worlds. But the alien civilizations in the Confederation were all basically pacifists. There was a need to recruit warlike races to wage war. Humans were the first of these races, and thus the military forces follow what is basically a human model. Since then, the di’Taykan and the Krai have also joined the military races. In this, the first of the novels, our hero is the senior NCO on a diplomatic mission aimed at securing the membership of a fourth military race. But something goes horribly wrong and her platoon is forced to make a heroic last stand with limited equipment and no support.

I didn’t need the afterword to tell me that the battle in the book was based on the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, one of the defining moments of the Anglo-Zulu War and immortalized in the classic film Zulu. One could not ask for a better framework on which to mount the story. Ms. Huff’s characters are funny, self-deprecating, enjoyable to read about. The dialogue is particularly stellar, and typically had me smile and snorting. The underlying theme of how the grunts must bear the attempts to kill them of not only the enemy, but also of the brass and the politicians is hardly orginal, but Ms. Huff treats this theme with razor sharp wit without diluting its importance and impact. Our heroine is hard as nails but disarmingly human, as evidenced by her accidental indiscretion on the very first page. A great read.

Note: This book is collected in the “A Confederation of Valor” omnibus.

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