Thursday, July 7, 2011

Listened: "Command Decision" by Elizabeth Moon

Listened: Command Decision by Elizabeth Moon, 2007 (print), downloaded from Overdrive.

Fourth in the Vatta's War series. The books have gotten better with more action and less blah, blah, blah.

I've never much cared for science fiction as a fun house mirror of our own society. I prefer reading how an author advances a society in time, and what they come up with. That is what Moon does in the "Vatta universe". The universe is composed of planets and solar systems that were colonized a thousand or so years ago.

One thing I don't like is how each planet seems to be homogenous in it's culture. One planet is ruthless traders. Another planet is hu-mods (humans modified by electronics). Another planet is focused on courtesy and politeness. Diversity finds its own way and would do so on each planet.

Kylara "Ky" Vatta is still commanding a force of three ships that joined together to fight a well-organized and supplied group of interstellar pirates. Some smaller ships join up. Her cousin Stella is running the family business of interstellar shipping services. Her aunt is in the government on their home planet. Rafe Dunbarger - pronounced wrath by the narrator - is back at ISC. Thing happen. Ky fights a space battle and a space station with a thieving government. Rafe has to rescue is kidnapped and tortured family. ISC has trouble with embezzlement and sabotage. People die. Things blow up.

1. The plot revolves around communication. Ansible service from planet to planet and system to system is down. Ansibles provide instantaneous communications across space. Commercial transactions and businesses spread over several systems are dependent upon the ansibles. Ansibles are controlled by ISC which has it's own fleet of warships to defend the technology and service. Kind of like the East Indian Company who had their own ships and infantry and could wage war.
2. Ansibles go down across the universe. Wouldn't ISC have a massive drop in income with service down for a year or so in some areas? The service is down for many months and I would think income would drop precipitously. This is not really addressed by the ISC characters.
3. New technology allowing mobile and ship-borne Ansibles threatens the wealth and power of ISC. Kind of like replacing telegraph machines with cell phones.
4. Communications and mis-communications among the Vatta family is also as a key part of the story. Deception and avoidance are often analyzed by the main characters. What is someone else thinking? What is the enemy planning? A character wanting to say something but holding back for different reasons.
5. Space battles were interesting to listen to. The issues of instantaneous ansible sped versus the light speed used by some ships. The lag in time for light speed communication causes trouble. The "scan time" of seeing something happen versus real time.

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