Command Decision

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Author: Elizabeth Moon
Barcode/ISBN13: 9780345491596
ISBN: 0345491599
Imprint/Brand: Del Rey
Release Date: 27 Feb 2006
Format: Hardcover
Series: Vatta's War 04
Number of Pages: 384
Price $AUD: Now $15.00
Was $51.95
This is a discount of 71.1%
Categories: Science Fiction
Space Opera

With most of her family dead, slaughtered in a series of brutal attacks aimed at destroying the Vatta interstellar shipping empire, Kylara Vatta struggles to rebuild her family business and recruit allies to her cause, working to bring together a ragtag group of traders to strike back against an entire fleet of pirates.

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Review by Tim:

Kylara Vatta is maturing in her leadership of the loose coalition of privateers resisting the depredation of organised pirate ships. Stella Vatta works on the home front, repairing the economic base of the Vatta trading empire, encouraging Toby Vatta to develop innovative technology. Rafael Dunbarger, the undercover ISC agent, unravels the mystery of ISC's inaction in the crisis, and returns to his family to find his home situation even more personal and desperate. Amongst this, there are opportunistic criminals, competent mercenaries, ISC's incompetent military, Aunt Grace asserting herself back at Slotter Key, and the ever present financial worries, logistical challenges, etc, etc.
The plot is fast, with plenty of space battles, fights and tension. The story goes into the details of how to operate a privateer spaceship and deals in an intelligent way with the challenges that arise. It is logical and surprising. One presumes the author has drawn lessons from history, economics, engineering and leadership experience.
If you enjoy good old fashioned science fiction, and have not read Elizabeth Moon, do so. She has many stories published, covering space opera, high fantasy, literary hard SF and comedy. Her books tend to include a military theme with authentic practicalities displaying experience, but she does not allow this to dominate the narrative.
Command Decision is book 4 in Elizabeth Moon's Vatta’s War series. A reader should start with book 1, Trading in Danger. As the series progresses, the characters who survive the war grow with deep characterisations and develop as humans. They become people and the reader is engaged to care about their welfare and worries.
This is a mature space opera, much more than cowboys in space, or navy with heroes. A very satisfying read.

Review by Dan:

In a world with instant communication, those who have access to it have a distinct advantage over those who don't. It's been over a year since the system ansibles run by ISC stopped working across vast areas of space, and lines of communication have been dependent upon the traders moving between systems, and the speed they can travel at. The pirates have shipboard ansibles, and so far, the only other people who have it are the anti-pirate group led by Kylara Vatta. Now it's up to Ky and her fellow captains to work out how to best the pirates without giving away the fact they have the ansibles (and can spy on them somewhat) or getting themselves blown away in the process. Ky is aware that they need more ships to have any hope, but how to get them, and fund them is a problem.
Stella Vatta is at Cascadia, trying to get Vatta Transport back in business, and hopefully provide some funding for Ky's pirate hunting. Slotter's Key, the normal Vatta base of operations, has been out of touch since the ansibles went down, and the Vatta headquarters were attacked. Grace Vatta, Stella and Ky's aunt, and sometime family spook, is about to have a handful on her plate, as she becomes involved with running the planetary defences. Rafe, who had been travelling with Ky and Stella until recently, has headed back to Nexus to find out why ISC hasn't fixed the ansibles yet, and finds the situation is worse than he was expecting. There are dramas for characters at personal and professional levels, with characters having to weigh up responsibilities at both levels, and try to find a balance between them.
While this book is definitely a military space opera, the focus is on personal battles, rather than military details. The jargon, both technical and military, is kept to a minimum, and is done in such a way that no prior knowledge (or dictionary) is necessary to understand what's happening. A thoroughly enjoyable read that will leave you impatient for more.