Ky has begun building a new fleet to counter the elusive pirates that murdered her family and continue to wreak havoc by destroying system ansibles and taking entire planets hostage. Her initial plan: build some kind of galactic defense force capable of wielding the weight of entire systems with governments supporting her endeavors against the pirates. In reality, she has three ships and not all of them are up to spec, let alone intended for war. Her small fleet is leaking money and few governments are willing to take Ky seriously. She manages to prove herself time and time again, but doesn’t realize some ships were never intended for prolonged engagements of the kind Ky continually finds herself caught up in.
The first thing I noticed about Command Decision in comparison to the previous three books in the series, is the opening POV: It’s Rafe, not Ky. In fact, Ky doesn’t make an appearance until the third chapter. As it turns out, not only is Rafe’s story prominent enough to compete with Ky’s, it’s also pretty interesting—halfway through the book, at least. Most of the plot, Ky’s and Stella’s included, fell to the same wearisome schedule of procedure and minutiae of ship operations. There was some odd dramatic tension when Ky and the crew of the Vanguard are chased down by a corrupted, xenophobic, and opportunistic government bent on salvaging crew to sell as indentured servants. Other than to prove the worth of Ky’s burgeoning fleet and diversify the galaxy, the “Fishies” as they are known in more derogatory terms, didn’t ever seem to pose that much of a threat. Moon does, however, like to have fun with her nationalities (err—globalalities?).
If the tiny details of Moon’s world-building have bothered me throughout this series, her delightfully odd and colorful assortment of supporting cast and background planetary characters does much to improve my grudging tenacity. She knows how to create utterly infuriating characteristics and customs (there has been at least one of these in each book and typically at spaceport communication centers), but also malicious, quirky, and even ridiculously lovable ones such as Driscoll Ransome.
Ransome (slant rhymes with handsome, ha ha) imagines himself as a bit of a space hero, joining his substantially well-supported fleet of small spacecrafts with Ky’s to hunt down the rascally pirates in a feat of heroic greatness. He dresses the part and funds his crew to allow the same of them. They look better suited to a melodramatic movie set; it’s hard for Ky to take his offer seriously. Ransome’s theatrical appearance and maneuvers are all part of a game called “evolving rings” (p. 152)—he happens to be stuck in the “Romantic cycle.” It’s a curious game that isn’t explained in too much detail (surprisingly), but I was caught up in his ludicrous enthusiasm and dedication to the part.
If Moon had been as dedicated to other plot elements as she was with Ransome’s small, if entertaining contributions, I think I would have found more to enjoy about this book. For example, at first it seemed there would be some tension between the civilians aboard Vanguard and the military crew. Dissension among the ranks would be sure to stir things up for Ky rather than the same bureaucratic nonsense she’s had to put up with thus far when she isn’t confronting well-armed vessels in space. Not that military engagements aren’t entertaining, but surely the day-to-day in fiction would be a little more entertaining than the realistic tedium readers are inundated with. If I expected anything more, I was disappointed. Ky’s crew is quick to adapt to their new orders and everyone, in the end has no trouble getting along. Realistically, any kind of shipboard drama would take away from the epic nature of Ky’s mission to stop the pirates. I think my desire comes from wanting something to alleviate cargo lists and inventory checks or trips planet-side to resupply rather than a deviation from the main plot line. Ransome, at least, lightened the narrative.
I’ve also been pleased Moon isn’t having Ky take romantic interests. Having been burned by a past love in Trading in Danger, she’s allowed herself some distance from developing any relationships that are not business, family, or purely platonic. She also actively resists romance the more others question her motives. And she finally asserts herself by saying, “I’m not a silly schoolgirl. I am not going to go breathless over every handsome face that comes along…” (p. 155)—just in case there is still any doubt. In this way, she becomes fiercely independent, the perfect rogue element of Vatta Transport Ltd. to help reestablish trading and defend other systems from suffering the same fate at Slotter Key.
Command Decision is a light and fun addition to Moon’s series. It didn’t quite read as fast as the others, but I think at this point, I’ve just grown a bit impatient with some of the more unnecessary elements of realism which I think I’ve gone over ad nauseam in these reviews. The book, however, sets up a new direction for Ky’s former privateering group and finally approaches what will hopefully be an exciting confrontation between the Space Defense Force and the pirates in the fifth and final book, Victory Conditions.
Release Date: February 27, 2007
Reviewed Format: Library hardcover
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