Book Review: Tanya Huff’s The Truth of Valor

And it’s back to science fiction here on Dial H. For Houston! Because this blog might have started to qualify as educational or something if I kept up with all the non-fiction. Which, well, I’ve got at least two or three more non-fiction books in my to-read pile, but sometimes you just want to mix things up.

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Which brings us to Tanya Huff’s The Truth of Valor. I was quite excited to find this one in the dollar bin at a used bookstore, as I’ve read a bunch of the earlier books in the series. It’s a good thing I’m familiar with them, too, as honestly that’s kiiiind of a generic sci-fi adventure cover with kind of a generic title. Then again, The Truth of Valor is a standard sci-fi adventure, so it’s not like the cover’s misleading. If nothing else, at least it’s not a cheesecakey picture of a woman with great hair and tight leather pants. (I’m looking at you, Urban Fantasy).

But yeah. The Truth of Valor is the fifth novel in Tanya Huff’s Confederation series. The books center around Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr, a tough-as nails space marine. Heavy emphasis on the ‘marine’ part. No 40k silliness here, thankyouverymuch. Over the course of the novels, Torin is sent around the galaxy to shoot various aliens and otherwise have various adventures.

The first book, Valor’s Choice, is straight up Roarke’s Drift IN SPAAAAACE. Only with alien lizardmen instead of zulus. Oh, and instead of British colonial infantry, Valor’s regiment is made up of humans, super-omnivorous (and occasionally cannibalistic) space apes, and super-sexy bisexual space elves. There’s something to be said here in how the most prominent non-human species in the series are basically personifications of our baser biological urges. Thematics!

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Basically, Huff goes from this …

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To this.

Maybe it’s the titles, or maybe it’s because both series star badass military lady protagonists, but I can’t help but compare the Valor series to David Weber’s Honor Harrington books. Of course, where Honor is a proper naval officer, Torin is a groundpounding NCO with a far grittier take on things. Different flavors of mil-SF, but both quite entertaining, nonetheless. Torin Kerr vaguely reminds me of FemShep from Mass Effect … except for the fact that the first Valor novel was released seven years before the first game even came out. I think the takeaway here is that I just really like FemShep.

Anyway, in The Truth of Valor, Torin is trying to enjoy her post-military retired life with her sexy space-pilot boyfriend she met in Book 2. This goes well for a couple of chapters until Torin’s boyfriend gets captured by Space Pirates who need some computer code stuff out of his brain. In turn, Torin pretty much goes all “Liam Neeson in Taken” to track him down and kick the crap out of everyone who gets in her way. It’s not the most labyrinthine of plots, but it’s still solid sci-fi entertainment.

One thing that makes Huff’s Valor novels stand out from most Military Science Fiction is that they lack the authoritarian, right-wing bent of a lot of other Mil-SF novels. (I’m looking at you, Baen). The Truth of Valor is a more personal story than a lot of space operas. There are no ancient plot macguffin artifacts, or massive fleet battles. It’s just Torin and her friends setting out to rescue her boyfriend. You could argue it as almost an inversion of the standard “rescue the princess” plotline.

On top of that, there’s an undercurrent of sexual liberation to these books that I really didn’t expect from a Mil-SF novel. It’s never pornographic, but at the same time, it still comes off as somewhat surprising. Then again, if you write a race of polyamorous bisexual space-elves into your setting, it’s something you’d have to address. Still, some of the side characters are in homosexual relationships, and another minor character is in a plural marriage. Though most tellingly, there’s a part where Torin’s captured boyfriend has to seduce a sexy space-elf guy in order to help his escape. All of this is presented in a casual, matter-of-fact kind of way. Heck, the characters mention how sleeping with the sexy space elves “doesn’t count,” which I suppose is a good cultural rule to have when you’re dealing with sexy space elves.

I also almost forgot- one of the quirks of the series is that, because the book is in THE FUTURE or whatever, the ‘c’ has been dropped from the word “fuck,” so everyone tells each other “fuk you!” when they’re mad, which vaguely reminds me of a late 90’s internet chatroom or something. Still, as far as future-swearing goes, it’s leaps and bounds beyond Brandon Sanderson. 

Even though it’s fifth in the series, The Truth of Valor is a solid enough standalone novel (even though some mentions of earlier adventures might make you go look it up on Tvtropes or something). It’s set up mostly to get Torin from point A to point B, occasionally interrupted by her having to punch the crap out of one alien or another. This said, Huff is a good writer, so watching Torin go from point A to point B (and kicking the crap out of various aliens) is quite entertaining, to the point where I found myself finding reasons to pick the book back up to squeeze in one more chapter.

If you’re in the mood for a bit of straightforward space opera adventure, you could do worse than checking out The Truth of Valor. Then again, you might even start from the beginning of the series.

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