Audiobook Review: Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff

18 06 2013

Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff

Read by Marguerite Gavin

Tantor Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 40 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Valor’s Choice is a solid, by the numbers military science fiction tale that is elevated by its unique alien species and likable protagonist. If you are looking for a cutting edge, unique take on this subgenre, you may be disappointed, but if you want a book that reminds you why big battles pitting space marines against lizard alien hordes is so much fun, Valor’s Choice will be perfect for you.

Grade: B+

Sometimes I don’t think I am qualified to read Military Science Fiction. First off, I have never seen Zulu. It seems, at some point, in every military science fiction book, or any book involving a small group being sieged upon by a large indigenous population, someone in the book mentions the movie Zulu, or its historical basis. I often wonder if not seeing Zulu allows me to enjoy these great moments of siege warfare in military science fiction better or if it’s a detriment. I often feel that the fact that I never served in the military, never have fired a gun, that the closest I have ever come to military strategy was the rambunctious games of RISK I used to play after school with friends are less of a detriment to the expertise I need to properly evaluate a good military science fiction novel than the fact that I have never seen Zulu. There are many people out there who have brilliant minds for history. Who can pull seemingly random historical facts out of the air to illuminate an issue, or some aspect of a military science fiction or alternate history novel, and while I have always loved history, I always feel inadequate around these people.  These people flood the message boards and reviews and interactions with authors with these amazingly precise bits of military and historical analysis that plays directly into issues that the author explores or to counter deficiency in an authors reasoning, and I want to mumble something like, “Ummmm… yeah…. but what about Zulu?” Then I remember, I have never seen Zulu. Yet, I have decided finally that it’s fine. I don’t have to be some super intelligent, historical genius to enjoy tales of bands of brothers facing incredible odds. I can find hope in tales of these friends, heading out once more into the breach. Oh, have I mentioned I’ve never read Henry V?

In Valor’s Choice, humanity is now space faring, and is a crucial part of a confederation of species battling against a mysterious menace known simply as The Others. Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr is a veteran of many battles, and takes great pride in her ability to take new officers and whip them into fighting men. Yet, things become more complicated when she learns her newest Lieutenant just happens to be the same di’Taykan, a species know for their uncontrollable sexual pheromones, that she slept with the night before. Now, a General has informed her that her battle hardened and exhausted company will be pulling ceremonial duty as representatives to a new warrior species the Confederation is courting. Yet, when things go wrong, Kerr finds herself and her small group of soldier behind enemy lines, with thousands of native warriors doing their best to kill them. Valor’s Choice is a solid, by the numbers military science fiction tale that is elevated by its unique alien species and likable protagonist. If you are looking for a cutting edge, unique take on this subgenre, you may be disappointed, but if you want a book that reminds you why big battles pitting space marines against lizard alien hordes is so much fun, Valor’s Choice will be perfect for you. I picked up Valor’s Choice for two main reasons. First, in all the recent discussions about gender in SFF, I realized that I haven’t read much hard science fiction by female authors, and when I requested suggestions for hard or military science fiction, this one caught my eye. The other reason comes from my frustration with my current batch of Military SF series. It seems there is a real plague of competence in military SF, and I wanted to find something that reminds me that in war people die and battles don’t always go according to plan. Valor’s Choice perfectly fit my mood at the time. It was full of cool aliens, classic themes and battles where you actually felt the heroes were in jeopardy. Instead of being annoyed at the classic tropes Huff used, I embraced them. I love seeing the Staff Sergeant as the true driving force of the Company. I love the soldiers who may not be willing to go a night without finding a bar to fight in, but are willing to put their lives on the line for their fellow soldiers. And I really enjoyed the cocky officers and Generals who get out thought and put in their place by those who actually have experience. I think that Valor’s Choice reminded me that Military Science Fiction, although bleak and dark at times, can also be a heck of a lot of explody fun. It’s been a while, probably since listening to Ringo and Weber’s March Up Country that I have just sat back and enjoyed the bumpy ride of an action filled tale like this. In fact, I enjoyed this novel, and it’s complicated but comfortable protagonist so much, I immediately downloaded the next book in the series from my library.

Marguerite Gavin did an excellent job bringing this book to life. I like that she had a nice, clear voice, with enough grit and hardness to depict the darkness of the tale, but enough exuberance to capture the humor as well . She has a mature voice that was perfectly suited to voice a wide range of characters no matter what gender or species. I especially enjoyed her alien vices. Her voice for the spider like Mictoc was both creepy, and oddly regal, and she got more than one laugh out of me while voicing the bird like Rakva. She paced the novel well, building the tension as the situation became more and more dire. I was surprised by the number of editing mistakes in the production. I listened to the version available on Overdrive, and it had multiple repeated lines, each an obvious different take on the same line. At first, I though maybe it was a stylistic touch by the author, but later in the book I realize that if it was, it was a pretty stupid style. Yet, these mistakes were more of a novelty problem, and only briefly ripped me away from the world I was immersed in. Valor’s Choice is a fun military science fiction audiobook, affectively voiced by a strong narrator.

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One response

18 06 2013
Carl V. Anderson

I picked this up in a two-book omnibus a couple of years back and fell right into it. It was the first of this kind of military fiction that I read and though it was different than what I was used to I enjoyed the heck out of it. I’ve read the third book and have the fourth and fifth waiting on the shelf for a read some day.

I too haven’t seen Zulu, but I’ve heard and read so much about it over the years that I feel as if I have. I thought the novel built slowly but really came on at the end with a tension-filled battle at the end. Loved it. Of all three that I’ve read this first one is the best, in my opinion, but I really like Torrin Kerr and have enjoyed them all because of her.

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