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Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
“I do not intend survival. I intend victory.”
Engaging the Enemy is the third book in Elizabeth Moon’s VATTA’S WAR saga. Young captain Kylara Vatta, her beautiful cousin Stella Vatta, and their elderly Aunt Grace continue their quest for revenge on the people who destroyed the Vatta shipping empire and most of the Vatta family. They are just beginning to realize the extent of the vast conspiracy which brought the Vattas down — it involves space pirates, a disgruntled renegade cousin, a traitorous ship captain, and the government of their home planet, Slotter Key.
While Ky and Stella are out in space dodging assassination attempts and looking for allies, they have to deal with mercenaries, ship captains from different cultures, and more than one planet’s ridiculous system of government. Finally Moon begins to show us the cultural distinctions between the different planets we visit. Some of this is pretty amusing and reminds me a little of Jack Vance’s ability to highlight silly human behaviors by emphasizing a particular inane behavior in one of his created cultures. Elizabeth Moon does something similar here. Mostly she’s making fun of bureaucracy and it adds a nice bit of levity to her story.
Ky is getting stronger and growing into her role as the commander of an interplanetary military force. She’s still worried about her discovery that she enjoys killing bad guys and we, along with her cousin Stella, are starting to worry a little, too. There are some moral dilemmas for Ky — on more than one occasion she has to decide whether it’s ethical to kill or torture one person for the greater good. Ky doesn’t think about this for very long before making her decisions — does that make her morally inferior or superior?
Aunt Gracie is probably Elizabeth Moon’s best character in this series. Because the enemies have brought down the ansibles that allow for interplanetary communications, she’s out of touch with Ky and Stella. Here we see her scheming in the background, targeting the president of Slotter Key. Her story takes less space than Ky’s but it’s always exciting. Elderly Aunt Grace may not be involved in space battles, but she kicks butt nonetheless.
Stella, on the other hand, is weak in this installment. She has so much potential to be a great strong character, but so far Moon doesn’t seem to be sure what Stella’s purpose is. In the previous books she seemed to be a hero in her own right, but this time Moon seems to be using her to make Ky look better in contrast. Too bad. Why can’t Stella be awesome, too? I hope she’ll be back on track in the next book.
Most of the plot of Engaging the Enemy focuses on Ky meeting and strategizing with potential allies, equipping her ships, hiring crew, worrying about her relationship to her home planet, and trying to decide what her role is in the struggle for revenge. Too much of this is tedious and repetitive. I’ve mentioned in a review of an earlier book in this series that I enjoy the focus on trading and transportation logistics, so I feel a little forgiving about this, but many readers will think it’s just plain boring. There’s not much action from Ky’s storyline until the very end of the book when there’s a trial, a surprising revelation about the Vatta family, and a major military engagement.
Despite the deceptive title of the book, there isn’t a lot of action in Engaging the Enemy. However, the story advances and there are welcome revelations and some good character development. I’m rating Engaging the Enemy a little lower than the previous installments just because there’s less action, some of the plot elements feel like they’re there just to add drama, and there’s too much boring red tape. Still, somehow Elizabeth Moon keeps me reading and there’s no way I’m giving up on the Vatta family now. Go Vatta!
Another Elizabeth Moon page turner. It has elements of identity theft, bureaucratic wrangling mixed with cultural differences, inept leadership, family relationships, ever present pirates and space combat. That humans haven't changed in the time it took to develop interstellar travel is a testament to the author's imagination. In the end, our heroine, Ky Vada, lives to see another adventure in the next book.
“Engaging the Enemy” indeed, the third installment of the series finally gives readers a genuine space battle. But it also introduces an odd assortment of cultural eccentricities which seem in line with some of the more unbalanced societies given passing treatment on one-off episodes of Star Trek. There’s humor in it though and that is sufficient.
Somewhat necessary nowadays is the need to impart the difficulty of light lag in space combat which is achieved here to good effect by the now obsolete tactics demonstrated at the end of the book. Very well done also is the showing of a need of a certain kind of officer to adapt to the demands of changing technology to both innovate where needed while respecting the principles of tradition and discipline.
The one blemish is one seems a tired, but still amusing, convention of a planet in the far future which has resurrected the veneration of honor expressed in duels at the slightest insult. An amusing sideshow is a legal proceeding in a system that seems to have taken love of nature, particularly the forest, and absolute adherence to decorum and politeness to a ludicrous extreme.
I liked the book and would recommend it for anyone who likes space Sci-Fi and likes adventure novels. Even though others have critiqued the narration, I thought the narrator did a fine job presenting the material. I found the presentation to be commensurate with the action.
I tried, I really tried giving this author and series the benefit of the doubt that some stories start slowly from book one but eventually get better. Oh I couldn't have been more wrong in this case. I first noticed this in book 2 and struggled my way through it by book 3 I couldn't even get half way through before I simply quit. Here is why, the book is based on space age trade and commerce, the author leads it to say that this is a profitable and successful way of life for those that trade goods. I honestly can't see how it would work, every port and I mean every port the main characters came to it was nothing but negative crap like, "I don't like the looks of you, you must be a pirate as a space official we are taking your goods your ship, even the underwear your wearing just because." or things like, well this other captain says your a dodgy person so you must be, do i know this other captain no, does he have a good rep erm well actually he has been known for fraud. But he says your not trustworthy even though you have never done anything on any record anywhere and even though your families trading business has the best record anywhere he said it so it must be true, so therefore hand over your cargo your ship and don't forget that underwear. These things were being ordered by space dock officials, not thieves not pirates, not even corrupt politicians. I just couldn't take it anymore of the mindset of well it was on TV so it must be true garbage. No facts, no investigations, no relevance. This went way beyond anything that was able to be believed, I would have had to look up with a telescope to even get to it was a bad joke.
Barely surviving her last battle Ky tries to rest only to have More obstacles in her way. With Rafe and Martin by her side she makes plans to bring the fight back to those who targeted her. Meanwhile Stella Has her own Problems and Aunt Gracie Lane team with Ky's former "Tor"mentor to find how deep the plot goes. After 3 Books The narrator has eased into the role. No Falsetto's here. Only her inflection changes when she switches characters or male or female. She brings Ky a Human voice and brings the story to life. if you listened to the previous books not much has changed but the continuing story. If you held out this long the story makes it worth the listen.
This book had good surprises and a strong charter development with action, Sabatage and back stabing