Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Twenty Excellent Reasons, by Bennett R. Coles

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(Military SF) The rebellion on Thor is getting worse, and Jack has to lead a mission from orbit to rescue some hostages. His craft isn’t designed for this, there’s no ground support at all, and he’s got a newbie to nursemaid. (5,976 words; Time: 19m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Tense, exciting, and stirring.

"Twenty Excellent Reasons," by (edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt), appeared in (RSR review), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The superficial plot is straightforward: rescue the hostages, but there’s a deeper plot, which is about Jack maturing into a real leader. The cost of the mission is high, we know Jack feels it keenly, and we know his promotion is well-deserved, which makes for an emotional ending.

At the start, Jack doesn’t care about the lieutenants “stressing.” He just wants to do his job and not worry about the bigger picture. Even having another person in his Hawk bothers him.

But even on the approach, he makes a point of giving Singh useful work to do—he knows he has a responsibility, and he makes at least some effort to live up to it.

So we’re not completely surprised when Jack decides to try to rescue the Axe-One team. What’s outstanding is that, first, he makes the hard call to leave dead soldiers behind. Then he makes the even harder call to leave live ones behind. Finally, his triage calculation is that the special forces guys can get away and that he can save all of the wounded—and he makes them obey that order.

Back on the ship, he doesn’t see himself as a hero, nor does Singh. “I’m glad I don’t have that on my conscience” is all she says. But we know he’s a hero, and so does the captain. His promotion makes perfect sense, even if he himself doesn’t realize it.

Naturally all of this fighting, struggling, nearly-crashing, etc. makes for a very tense narrative with almost no dull moments at all.

Con: The astrodynamics doesn’t work. An orbital vehicle, like the Frankfurt, will be going much, much faster than a suborbital one, like Axe-two. The intercept could never work in the way he describes it.

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