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An Officer's Duty (Theirs Not to Reason Why) Mass Market Paperback – July 31, 2012
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"Reminiscent of both Starship Troopers and Dune.” --Publishers Weekly
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Ia returns to her home heavyworld Sanctuary in order to insure the safety of her family and makes sure her brother wins the lottery at a time when religious disputes begin to turn hostile. The money will be used to for Sanctuary to survive one of the wars in which her home world plays a pivotal role. Ia plays a role in a series of armed conflicts with her goal to save billions of lives if every step in the time stream happens. Ia is a part of the Blockade Patrol keeping the amphibian race the Saliks blocked up in their sector. However, she knows they plan to break through the blockade; she must prevent this from happening because if they succeed her efforts to follow that one time stream ends in the earliest stage.
Known for her romantic fantasies (see the Sons of Destiny), Jean Johnson continues to display the width of her talent with her second exciting Theirs Not to Reason Why military science fiction thriller. Fans of Honor Harrington will appreciate heroic Ia who gives up the life she wants and the man she loves to prevent a futuristic galactic wide catastrophe, which, if unimpeded, would occur after she is dead. Fast-paced with terrific battle scenes and deep characterizations, Ia brings a sense of urgency to this deep tale.
If you have read A Soldier's Duty all you really need to know is that this one is better in almost every way. And I mean that literally and not figuratively. Dialog, writing, character development, dramatic tension, plausibility, science and military elements, everything. If you're already interested in this book because you've read the first one, pick this book up.
Alright. So if you happened to stumble across this book over the course of browsing Amazon for new reads and you HAVEN'T read the first book, there's quite a few things you need to know.
This series falls squarely and unquestionably in the "guilty pleasure" category of books. Its the sort of book you can't beguile your friends over and recommend they read immediately and you certainly can't debate narrative qualities and plot elements ad nauseum with random people on the internet. You're not going to debate the scientific merits of a theoretical course of action based on an extensive established technical lore. You are almost certainly not going to be comparing any military facet of this series to real life requirements.
However, for those so inclined, this series is a great deal of fun for the same reason the japanese anime series Helsing is fun; a single compelling hook that drags you in despite the dead weight of problems afflicting it.
For a fairly good representation of the comparison, watch Helsing Episode 6. Essentially, for those unwilling to do so, you have a central character so outrageously powerful and capable of so many amazing feats of psychic power and of causing so many deaths in the course of his/her daily life as to cause those of us so inclined to stand back in awe of their magnificence.
In such a situation, dramatic tension is nearly nonexistant; you never wonder in the midst of your immersion whether the character will succeed but rather HOW they'll succeed. Sure if you've read a few books every book can be described that way. Externally, outside of the flow of a story, it's always possible to realize that of course since X is going to happen (the next episode in the series is coming out or the next book) then it follows that the character WILL succeed, but if you're smart and care about experiencing a story, you don't do that.
I'm talking about a character who, within the established lore, is so powerful that it is never in doubt that she'll succeed. Within the immersion of the story, there is no question of whether she'll achieve her objectives.
Such a character's actions typically fall outside the extraordinary and into the outrageous, which takes a particularly flexible suspension of disbelief to really enjoy. Things in this series are given the bare minimum of explanation so if you're the type that requires more than that, you might as well go read the A Confederation of Valor (omnibus) novels instead if you haven't already.
Now if such a story doesn't appeal to you that's perfectly fine. But I've just accurately described the first book in the series so you might as well give this series a pass because that book's kind of important. You see, there are a lot of things Jean Johnson failed to do well in that book, but one thing that's intrigued me as I've continued the series is how many little actions she seems to have planned in advance. Things stated as important in the first book but never given explanation are revealed to be quite important in the second book. Likewise, many things were introduced in the second book that fall into the same category.
In my experience, it's hard to match description to action. It's hard to not only SAY a character has a large, sweeping, hyper-complex plan to save the galaxy but also DEMONSTRATE that said character has such a plan. So far, I'm seeing the framework. Little throwaway statements made in the first book are actually touched upon, if not outright resolved, in the second book.
This book is better in almost every way than its predecessor. Where Ia, the main character, waltzed through over a dozen armed enemies single-handed with nothing but a sword in the first book, this book ends with her near death (but alive) and facing a peril her near omniscience can't save her from. The contrast in tone should be quite clear; Jean Johnson either listened to people's feedback, or she's incredibly honest with herself, or both as she's successfully brought this series out of the dime store and into the Barnes and Noble (so to speak, I actually bought the first book in B&N). Dramatic tension makes a comeback baby, and it is given a hero's welcome (by me at least).
However I still cannot recommend new readers read the first book until they've spent enough time learning what they are getting into. If you aren't comfortable with a story where a character is nearly omniscient, a science framework that is almost non-existent (what's there is based on a psychology perspective rather than an actual science perspective), and a military framework that screams cliches at every turn, you're not going enjoy the first book in the slightest. And if you don't enjoy the first book, you're not going to be in a great frame of mind for the second.
Bottom line and TL;DR, THIS book is great and well worth the read in most cases regardless of your stance on crazy powerful uber-protagonists. The FIRST book is hit or miss really. My suggestion stands; watch Episode 6 of Helsing and if any of that episode twinges your sensibilities, pick up the first book. Not terribly well written, not terribly well acted, not terribly good progression of events, but fun for the right kind of person.