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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
A "middle" book in a fun seriesMay 5 2006
Richard R. Horton
- Published on Amazon.com
Engaging the Enemy is the third in Moon's current series collectively called Vatta's War. I really liked Moon's first Mil-SF series, the Heris Serrano/Esmay Suiza books that eventually ran to 7 volumes. And I am really enjoying this series as well. That said, this book is pretty clearly a middle book, a chapter in a serial, and it doesn't really stand alone very well. Hence the 3 star rating -- the series as a whole is a 4 star series.
Ky Vatta is one of a few survivors of the successful interstellar trading company Vatta Transports. The bulk of that company was murdered in a coordinated attack by pirates in league with the government of their home planet, Slotter Key. Now it is clear that the pirates are attempting to control all of human space: they have destroyed much of the ansible network that connects various systems (all of which independent countries, basically), and they have taken over at least a couple star systems. Ky has managed to escape a couple of attempts on her life, and to defeat the pirates in a couple of small encounters. She has captured one pirate ship, the Fair Kaleen, which was captained by the slimy Osman Vatta, a cousin who was booted out of the family due to his nasty ways. Ky has also linked up with her beautiful cousin Stella, another survivor, and she assigns Stella to be captain of her original ship. And it wouldn't be a Moon space opera without Aunts in Space[tm], so back on Slotter Key, Aunt Grace, who is assumed to be a half-mad old bat, is working against the corrupt parts of the Slotter Key government.
The bulk of this book concerns Ky's attempts to organize resistance to the pirates, mainly by recruiting other privateers (Ky has a letter of marque from Slotter Key) to join her in forming an impromptu space navy. She is hindered in this by stupid governments who think the pirates will leave them alone if they just ignore things, and too by the individual crotchets and bloody-mindedness of the privateers. Stella is mad at her for various reasons as well, and then she runs into an old captain for Vatta who shockingly claims that she must be an imposter -- possibly a daughter of Osman Vatta who is impersonating the real Ky Vatta. The resolution to this last thread is a nice twist on what we expect. The other thread about the privateer navy leads to a nice concluding space battle. And back on Slotter Key Grace has made some progress in her attempts to root out the bad guys in local government and to begin rebuilding Vatta's position on planet.
I liked it because I like these books and this story and I root for Ky and Stella and Grace. That said this isn't the place to start -- begin at the beginning, with Trading in Danger. This latest book is mostly setting things in place for future books, which I imagine will involve bigger and better space battles, and interesting revelations about the bad guys (who are as usual for Moon pretty evull).
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Best of the Vatta's War series -- compulsively readableOct. 1 2006
Peter D. Tillman
- Published on Amazon.com
Elizabeth Moon's new space-opera series is really hitting its stride in this outing, which kept me up until the wee hours. Protagonist Ky Vatta is starting to get a handle on the bad guys who massacred most of her family on their homeworld, Slotter's Key. She's also getting comfortable with commanding the armed merchantman she recaptured from a rogue Vatta cousin -- the rogue leads her to the apparent mastermind behind the attack, and the newly-unified pirate fleet that's starting to attack and annex isolated worlds . Ky is trying to organize a privateer response, but the privateers get off to a very rough start. To be continued....
Back home on Slotter's Key, Crazy Aunt Grace is hot on the trail of the bent politicians who let the raiders slip through the planet's space-defense net, and the trail is leading right to the top of the planetary government....
Moon's writing just keeps getting better -- in this book, the quality of writing, world-building and characterization are getting into the Bujold zone, high praise indeed. The catch for new readers is that _Engaging the Enemy_ definitely isn't a standalone -- in fact, the opening follows so hard on the heels of 2004's _Marque and Reprisal_ that these two books could be considered a single novel. While the first two books of Vatta's War were decent and worth reading, they never quite clicked for me. With _Engaging the Enemy_, Moon is back to writing something closer to pure mil-SF, her home comfort-zone, and the next volume is likely to be even purer. Newcomers may want to quickly breeze through the first two books to catch up to the Good Stuff. And, if you've already read the first two Vatta's War books, you're in for a real treat.
Note 1) -- the first of which was the planet Bissonet, named after a street near the Rice University campus, where Moon & I both studied in the late Pleistocene....
Peter D. Tillman
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Engaging interstellar adventureAug. 15 2006
James K Bowers
- Published on Amazon.com
Nebula Award-winning author Elizabeth Moon continues her interstellar "Vatta's War" saga with "Engaging the Enemy," the third book in the series. Those who have read the previous books in the series will welcome the return of Captain Kylara Vatta, the young, self-doubting, yet determined heroine who seems prone to difficulties and disaster even when she makes the right decisions. It is precisely this quirk in Ky's luck that endears her to science fiction fans everywhere. During her earlier exploits, we learned a little about Ky, her family, and her family business, Vatta Transport. We watched as she faced the dangers wrought by the destruction of ISC communications assets, dealings with pirates and mercenaries, assassination attempts, hand-to-hand combat, and the vengeful spite of the family's black sheep, Osman Vatta. Put your helmets on and buckle up, because that was only the beginning.
In "Engaging the Enemy," Moon treats her fans with a much closer look at Ky's Aunt Grace, a remarkable woman with a great deal more about her than her outward appearance would suggest. Aunt Grace struggles to preserve the lives and livelihood of the Vatta family on Slotter Key, Vatta Transport's corporate home world. The cunning Vatta matriarch finds she has both enemies and allies as she battles on cut off from communications with all off-world assets and working with tremendously reduced Vatta resources. Meanwhile, Kylara, now captaining the Fair Kaleen -- a well-armed pirate vessel she captured from Osman --as her privateer flagship, begins her earnest quest to avenge the near-total annihilation of the Vatta family and to restore the family business. Trailing behind her in the Gary Tobai is Stella, Ky's cousin and ally in the undeclared Vatta's War. While catching up to Kylara as she hops from one star system to another, Stella finds reason to doubt Kylara's motivations and intent, but nothing can prepare either of them for the shocking truth they discover during the trial of Captain Furman, one of Vatta's most senior merchant captains.
Moon continues to chronicle the events of Kylara Vatta's life as a young, star-faring merchant captain turned privateer in "Engaging the Enemy." For veteran readers of the "Vatta's War" series there are answers to be found in Moon's latest space opera aria. Unfortunately, since this is but a single volume of the series, readers who are new to this continuing story will finish with far more questions than answers. The author's writing style and skillfully placed redundancies allow this book to be enjoyed without reference to her earlier works, "Trading in Danger" and "Marque and Reprisal." However, readers who have not read these earlier works are depriving themselves of valuable insights and background information, not to mention the pleasure of more of Elizabeth Moon's entertaining writing. Whenever the physical action slows, the internal struggles and interaction of the various characters ensure there is no lull in the book's overall pace. The author has placed great emphasis on character development -- personality traits and motivations -- and it is this particular aspect of Moon's writing that ultimately keeps her audience enthralled.
Moon's ability to pen a sweeping tale of science fiction has never been in doubt, but if ever it were, her "Vatta's War" series would surely lay those doubts to rest. If you haven't had your share of interstellar adventure this week, "Engaging the Enemy" is only a bookstore away.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
another installment in a pretty good space operaSept. 8 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
This is the third book in the series about Ky Vatta. The first book (Trading In Danger) was pretty much forgettable, but the second book (Marque and Reprisal) was better. Characters from both books carry over into this third installment, but you could skip the first book if you wished. Marque And Reprisal, however, is required reading before starting Engaging The Enemy.
The story is set in an outer space version of the pirate-era Caribbean. Each planet (island) is independently governed, and there is no legal enforcement outside of their star systems. The traders that sail between the planets are therefore subject to pirate attacks. In response, some of them are armed privateers, legally empowered to destroy pirates and capture their ships.
Ky Vatta's family used to run one of the biggest and most successful of these trading empires, but her family was attacked and most of them were killed. She now has two ships (one of them armed) and has to figure out how to survive, rebuild the family business, and destroy the people who attacked her.
Her cousin Stella is also present, and back home her Aunt Gracie is trying to clean up the corruption that allowed the attacks to happen.
Much of the plot of the book happens as Ky is bounced from one star system to another, generally for reasons she thinks are not her fault but Stella blames her for. This sets up a struggle between Ky and Stella, in which Ky thinks attacking the pirates is what will protect the family and Stella thinks it is a distraction that will endanger what little is left of the Vatta clan.
Ky also is attempting to recruit the independent privateers into a fleet of armed ships which can stand up to the pirates.
Some of the themes in the book are fairly typical of post-9/11 fiction, especially the question of who has to stand up to criminal activity and how it should best be done. Beyond that, however, the other theme that constantly emerges is that our actions can be easily misinterpreted by others, and those misinterpretations tend to build upon themselves until people are completely predisposed to see their image of us rather than our real selves. This even includes our own (false) images of ourselves.
This book read better than the second one, which in turn read much better than the first one. There is nothing groundbreaking or too deep in here, but it's a pretty entertaining read. The books are more focused on complex characterization than, for instance, David Weber's space operas, but less so than those of Lois Bujold. Similarly, they are more action-oriented than Bujold and less so than Weber.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
not as bad as the synopsis, not as good as the other reviewsApril 2 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
while i don't think any of this series compares with moon's previous work, this volume at least kept my interest. it's obviously a transitional volume, with the big (or a) finish coming in the next installment. but moon at least ignores several hackneyed possible plot developments and adds a very funny subplot. the politics are mostly realistic, and i think it's a shame that rudeness can't be treated the way one of her worlds does.
worth reading if you've read the other two, if you're new to moon, try the herris serano series.