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Book Review

Book Cover

Virtues of War


Author: Bennet R. Coles
Publisher: Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $14.95, Cdn $19.50
ISBN: 978 1 78329 420 6
Publication Date: 26 June 2015

Virtues of War (2015. 458 pages) is the first in a new trilogy of militaristic science fiction, written by Bennett R. Coles.

Coles throws us far into the future where mankind has expanded through gates to colonise the nearest surrounding systems, but this has come at a price. The Terran government has already fought one costly war with the Centauri system and an incident during a routine operation gives the Centauri all the excuse they need to start another.

The story predominantly follows four characters as the first strikes of the war unfold. Katja Emmes leads a navy strike team, the grunts needed to put feet on the ground. She spends most of her time as a conflicted character, partly due to her own actions and partly over long standing issues with her father. Breeze is an intelligence officer and you get the feeling that she is one of those people who is not terribly good at their job, but who have a ruthless disregard for others when it comes to progressing their career.

In charge of the Rapier, a small attack craft, Thomas is a good captain, dreaming of making it home in one piece to marry his fiancé, but also capable of acts of bravery as well as major doubts about his career. Lastly, Jack is a frustrated scout, dreaming of being a fighter pilot.

Now it depends on what you’re looking for in military science fiction. Coles served in the navy and so his grasp of the technical language and how the various branches of the military work are sound. He has added his own particular take on space combat by extending it into the fourth dimension, the only thing this offers is that it lets some of the ships behave like submarines, slipping below the observable universe. As you would expect there is a lot of action in the book, from large space battles, to ground force encounters although because of the similarity of the planet and political grouping names it can become confusing exactly what the Terran forces are doing.

There is a huge gap in the novel. Having colonised various planets, Terra has already suffered through one long war of liberation, which explains why the fleet are deployed to what is effectively enemy space. But even as a new war breaks out, the novel never really sufficiently covers the politics of the situation. The reader is left to draw their own conclusions, probably incorrectly or at least at odds to what the writer intended.

The first character we meet, Katja Emmes, thinks nothing of killing innocent civilian for information and for much of the story behaves like a space Nazi. The Terran forces are portrayed as back stabbing, incompetent with very few characters having positive attributes. Given how they are portrayed and the lack of information about the causes of the war, one can’t help but feel sympathy with the colonies for their feelings towards a fleet which acts more like a vicious force of invasion than a force for peace and liberation.

To be fair to the book, this is the first of three, with the main job of introducing the characters, their relationships and the wider background against which the rest of the story will unfold. Hopefully in the subsequent novels we will get to see things from the opposing side as they appear rarely in this one, so it’s difficult to know what exactly is going on.


Charles Packer

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