Bennett R. Coles: Virtues of War

Virtues of War Cover

I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Lieutenant Katja Emmes is assigned to the fast-attack craft Rapier, joining a mission to investigate weapons smuggling activity between the Terran colonies of Sirius and Centauria. If true, this act of rebellion could escalate rapidly, and lead to all-out war.

When combat does erupt, its ferocity stuns the Terran forces, and pushes them to their limits. It tests the abilities of Lieutenant Emmes, as well, along with Sublieutenant Jack Mallory and Lieutenant Commander Thomas Kane, commanding officer of the Raper. But failure is not acceptable.

They must defeat the enemy . . . by whatever means necessary.

Even though I am a big fan of science-fiction, I have never found myself coming across what this book is deemed – military sci-fi. It’s a concept I found intriguing. With so many of us having watched TV series or movies that have incorporated the language, virtues, and actions of either the army, navy, marines etc – we are more aware of how this styling should sound. And Bennett Coles really hits the nail on the head.

I found it really refreshing to read this style of science-fiction. It read like a movie, with all of the scenes a key part within the novel that helped to push the narrative forward and to provide information as and when needed. Coles balances the novel with the right amount of pacing. A variety of action scenes are dotted throughout the novel to speed up the pace when necessary and to keep you entertained and wanting to find out the consequences of these scenes. I must admit that I was slightly worried that many of these scenes would become repetitive as many do within movies – that they would just be added in for a bit of action with no originality to the scenario. However, each action scene was entirely different and affected our characters in different ways.

The characters themselves were brilliant, each in their own way. We are given a variety of perspectives which helped with the movie-like feel throughout the novel as we are given alternative views on multiple topics, understanding how varying ranks within the military are affected by the actions of those higher up, or of a lower rank. The character, who I would call our main protagonist, is Katja Emmes. At first I found her to be entirely unsure of herself within her position. It is clear that it is her first time seeing real action and the way she handles things causes her to question herself. She develops very well throughout the novel, understanding that she must be doing something right and beginning to appreciate the skills that she possesses. She’s tough and, generally, level-headed about everything with a knack for authority and leading others. But she also knows when to step down from that position of authority and let someone else take control.

The only other character I am going to mention is Jack Mallory. Though there are a few more “main” characters, both Katja and Jack were by far the most interesting for me and fast became my firm favourites. In comparison to Katja, Jack holds a position lower down in the ranks piloting hawks and other aircraft through space. He is the one that searches open space for any potential threats and reports them back to the main ship. It is clear that Jack is far smarter than the Astral Force believes him to be and that he holds a lot of skill when piloting. Jack maneuvers the ships like a pro, understanding the terrain around him. Furthermore, though his position is further down the chain, he becomes a key player in turning the tides within the novel and I loved the way that he was finally acknowledged by those higher up and able to make vast amounts of difference. Jack is the character that brings sharp comments and witticisms to the narrative to bring a more light-hearted feel to the battle scenes whilst the rest of the characters are more stern and in-control. It becomes evident that he is almost nervous in these scenarios at first, but he does become more adaptable.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel. As with most science-fiction novels, the first 100 or so pages were a bit slow as the situation and setting (even though it’s space!) were set up for me along with all of the terminology and language for various aspects of the novel. However, it was gripping and had me on the edge of my seat during the more intense action scenes and I am looking forward to the next in the series!

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