Kris Longknife: Resolute by Mike Shepherd
The navy is running out of places to put Kris Longknife. Her last job, running system defense boats, went well (I mean, she saved the world), but the job training new squadrons for hiring worlds fell through when no one who wanted those ships could afford to run security for Kris. Nor wanted to explain to her family that they let her get killed. And few captains would be willing to take on a known mutineer. So they assign her to command of Naval District 41. Ordinarely, Lieutenants don’t command districts, but 41 is a special case. Its last commander was a Lt., though he got the job by default and neglect: one commander retired, his replacement had a heart-attack on arrival and left on the same ship, and his replacement arranged a new assignment on his way in and so never arrived. Earth’s government found it easier to just ignore the situation at that point, and when society broke up Earth chose to cede the district to Wardhaven (Kris’ homeworld), who also found it more convenient to ignore the issue. This lasted up until the last year, when the commander finally retired, having served his 20 years.
Now Kris has been given command . . . of an unmanned, barely powered station and a battleship so antiquated that no one is even willing to consider recomissioning it. Both in orbit of a planet so fractious that they don’t even have national governments . . . nor nations. Kris has only the resources and people she has brought with her. Fortunately, those are considerable. Furthermore, she’s aware of something that command isn’t: the system holds an unsuspected jump gate, leading who-knows-where . . . but Kris intends to find out.
And then, when a squadron of ships from the Greenfeld Confederacy, Wardhaven’s cold-war enemy, arrive in the system to make a “friendly visit”, with Kris’ old sparring partner Hank Peterwald, in command, will Kris have to defend another planet against invasion with nothing but amateur crews?
This series is just getting more interesting as it goes on. Kris is frequently forced to balance her personal responsibilities and powers (as Princess, and as a Longknife) with her naval duties and the limits on her powers therein. She’s bright enough and good enough at choosing personnel to make it work, but it’s a delicate juggling act. More and more she reminds me of Miles Vorkosigan, and that’s a good thing.
Hammered by Elizabeth Bear
It is 2062. Master Warrant Officer Jenny Casey has left the UN Peacekeeping forces, left the Army, left Canada (nooooooo!) and, for reasons that escape her, is living in Hartford, Connecticut, under the name of Maker. Though by no means an outlaw, she is close friends with the local crimelord known as Razorface (for his charming artificial dentition) because he really cares about the town and people. One of Razorfaces’s people gets a sample of a Canadian Military drug known as Hammer and nearly dies from it, a rather extreme reaction to a single sample of the drug (it’s more characteristic of several samples of it). It seems that adulterated Hammer is on the streets of Hartford, and Razorface wants to know why and who. So does Maker.
She has other problems, of course. Due to injuries suffered in her military service, she’s a cyborg. Her left arm and eye were lost in an attack and replaced with artificial versions. But her cybernetics are decades out of date and now are slowly killing her.
Up north, Colonel Valens, Maker’s old commanding officer, is gathering scientists, including Elspeth Dunsany, recently released from prison, and Gabriel Castaigne, an old acquaintance of Maker, into a new project, one for which he’s also interested in finding Maker again.
And the ghost of Richard Feynman is watching . . .
To be honest, there are plot elements I haven’t touched in that summary, some of which I can’t because they’d be spoilerous, and others I’ve left out just to keep the summary shorter than the book. Bear has created an interesting, pseudo-cyberpunk future, one which I’d call realistic, allowing for a few caveats (and I’m not just saying that because Canada is a world power in it). She’s done her research and knows enough of Toronto that while she doesn’t deal with the fine details it’s obvious that she’s not writing about it sight unseen. If I had one problem, it’s that there’s a bit much french being spoken, but that could be explained by all of the characters involved being originally Quebecois, something I’m not sure of. But that’s a minor quibble. The characters were well written and believable, the tech was advanced but not unbelievably so, the politics realistic. I enjoyed it very much. My one major problem is that it doesn’t end, but stops, to be continued.