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Virtues of War
Author: Bennett R. Coles
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN-13: 978-1-7832-9420-6

Disclosure: A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

The dust jacket blurb quotes a review: “Top–notch military SF”. I agree. I have read considerable military s-f by master authors like David Weber, Michael Z. Williamson, David Drake and others, and Virtues of War (published June 2015; paperback $14.95; Kindle $7.49) is at least their equal – their superior, if you want almost steady action without as much character development or political background as the others.

In an undated future interstellar civilization, the Terran Union has colonized Earthlike planets throughout space. After several centuries, some colonies are beginning to seek independence, under the influence of Centauria, the oldest and best organized of them. The back-cover blurb talks about the galaxy being on the brink of war, but that’s misleading. War breaks out about halfway through Virtues of War, and what happens during the beginning of this war is the adventure.

The protagonists are four personnel of the warship Kristiansand of the Terran Astral Force and its fast-attack craft Rapier: Lt. Commander Thomas Kane, Lt. Katja Emmes, Lt. Charity “Breeze” Brisebois, and Sublt. Jack Mallory. They and their ships are part of Terra’s Expeditionary Force 15 which is caught in enemy space when the war breaks out, and they must help their fleet get back to Terran space. Three of them will do their utmost for Terra, while the fourth is entirely self-serving, only out for Number One.

Virtues of War is almost entirely military action in space and planetside:

“Even before he read the computer’s calculation, Jack knew what to expect. His hunt controls confirmed it – the contact was moving at one-tenth the speed of light.
There weren’t any natural objects that moved that fast, and very few civilian ones, especially out in this neck of the woods. Jack immediately began comparing the gravimetric signature – allowing for the warping caused by its high speed – to known military contacts. The computer narrowed the search to less than a dozen, and Jack carefully scanned each ‘spacetime fingerprint’.
‘This is Viking-Two. Identify fast-mover as one Terran fast-attack craft, Blade-class. Speed one-point-c, distance between two and three million. She’s going somewhere in a big hurry.’” (p. 33)

and:

“‘Mother, Alpha-One. Sitrep.’
‘Mother, go.’
‘Suspect cargo discovered. Bravo-One Team on location, Alpha-One Team en route with Target-Zero-Zero.’
‘Mother, roger. Kristiansand’s Hawk has reported possible stealth activity. Checking now, but I recommend you expedite.’” (p. 105)

and:

“The armor was standard battle gear for the Astral Corps, designed for up to seven days of surface combat. A soft, black one-piece jumpsuit clung to her body to regulate temperature, all but invisible under the hard, rust-colored outer plates – specially color-prepared for each terrain – that linked together to shield against impact while maintaining full flexibility. The neck plates offered protection up to her ears, and would be capped by the helmet she currently carried in her left hand.” (p. 237)

The text and dialogue are heavy in mil-speak. Coles says, “No military term ever survived long without being reduced to a TLA – three-letter abbreviation – and anti-stealth warfare was no exception.” (p. 31) Virtues of War is full of it: AAW, APR, ASW, AVW, FAC, OOW, VOI, XO, and many others, some more than three letters: NavO, OpsO, UNREP. Most of these are real naval abbreviations – Coles served 15 years in the Canadian Navy as an officer – so fans of military science-fiction will be familiar with them.

Virtues of War ends with a satisfying conclusion, but the space war has just begun and this is the first novel in a trilogy. It will be a winner with fans of military science-fiction.

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