Lieutenant Commander Kris Longknife has precise orders: seek out, engage, and destroy pirates, slavers, and drug lords operating beyond the Rim of human space – without interfering in Peterwald family affairs. Longtime rivals in business and politics, the Longknifes and the Peterwalds maintain a precarious détente at best.
Unfortunately, the pirates are acting within Peterwald territory, preying on the millions of refugees suffering there. Taking down thugs is all in a day’s work for Kris’s troops. Feeding the starving masses without government support is the real challenge – especially if Kris is to avoid the appearance of a Longknife takeover of a Peterwald world.
But, when slavers kidnap a twelve-year-old girl, Kris’s mission becomes personal. And if destroying the pirate compound flattens some Peterwald interests – well, to hell with politics…
Mike Shepherd’s Kris Longknife series was one of the first SF series I read and liked. I fell in love with the main character, unsurprisingly named Kris Longknife and her merry band of… what shall we call them, compatriots? Soldiers? Employees? Let’s go with friends, because the main supporting cast are Kris’ friends, sometimes despite their own best judgement. The books are filled with fun characters whose snark and humour tickle my funny bone and I really love the dialogues and interactions in the Longknife books. Every book is its own separate adventure, while at the same time advancing the over-arching story. Books can be read as a standalone but you lose out on some of the in-jokes. Redoubtable, the latest instalment of the series, is no exception to the rule and didn’t disappoint.
As in previous books the reader literally gets dropped into the action. If there is one thing Shepherd writes well it’s action scenes. The book gets going and just keeps rolling at breakneck speed. Shepherd doesn’t shy away from showing the atrocities of war and the bad guys in the first act of the book are pretty horrible. But the gore and horror only truly come out in the second part of the book, when Kris takes out the second pirate base. The famine, treatment of the slaves and the callous disregard for live is chilling. Shepherd might write military SF, but at no point and in no way does he glorify war. He does celebrate the camaraderie, loyalty and bravery of Kris’ troops, who consist of both Navy and Marine personnel.
In between the big action-filled confrontations, we do get to breathe during several more political sequences where Kris has to deal with the consequences of her military actions. While good and bad are clearly delineated in almost black and white, there are also some grey areas and characters that are explored and in this book we get a further look at the Greenfeld area of space and at Lieutenant Victoria Smythe-Peterwald in particular. I like how she and Kris more or less bond of being scions of ruling houses and the drawbacks to growing up as such. We see both young ladies growing up, Vicky being tutored by Admiral Krätz and Kris through being through out to swim on her own by her Grampa Ray, though she’s helped by her friends. I like how Kris is taking responsibility for the people around her, even going so far as thinking of ways to convince them to stay behind, so they’ll be safe.
I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of the Iteeche, the alien race humans fought decades ago in a crippling war, as I really wanted to know what was going on there! I found the Iteeche story arc in the previous book, Undaunted, so cool and I had expected to get back to that instead of having a sort of in-between adventure. I can understand that it would be necessary to cement alliances within the Greenfeld territories, but hopefully the next book will go back to advancing the Iteeche story arc. And I hope we’ll see more of Nelly and her kids. I LOVE Kris’ AI computer and the way that she is slowly developing her own character and becoming a true separate entity.
Despite my disappointment at the lack of Iteeche action, I did love the book! If you are looking for an entertaining read you can’t go far wrong with a Kris Longknife book and Redoubtable is a great addition to the Longknife universe. I can’t wait for the next instalment, Daring, in November!