Virtue of War is a fun, action-packed romp from start to finish. It also has one important ingredient I crave in my episodic science-fiction operas: firefights with a degree of believability. Perhaps this realism is thanks to the real-world experience of Justin Sloan, who co-authored the book with L.O. Addison (making his debut here). Sloan is a former Marine, and he writes about combat with the feel of someone whose been there and knows what it’s like. As the first book in the planned Syndicate Legacy series, this really hooked me right away, and I’m looking forward to even more adventures with this crew in the future.
Kaylin Ramirez is a thief. One of the best in the world. She specializes in stealing high-tech alien artifacts and selling them to the highest bidder. She’s also a woman with a problem. While attempting to steal a Fragment, a piece of alien technology that has broken off from a more powerful piece of alien tech, she is captured. Turns out that the day before she was caught, another more powerful weapon, capable of destroying whole solar systems, were also stolen.
While Kaylin is in custody, the ambassadors of the Rhuramenti, an alien species from the Andromeda galaxy, visit Earth. They’ve come to retrieve the Virtue of War, the artifact that was stolen. Here we meet Na’Gram (Lio and Marin). They refuse to leave Earth until the Virtue of War is returned. We are never told what the Virtue of War actually is. All we know for now is that it is a weapon of incredible destructive power. Hopefully more will be forthcoming as the saga progresses.
Nathan Hayes is the commander of the Resistance. Two years prior to the story, an alien coalition of planets known as The Syndicate (think of a combination of Star Trek’s Federation and the mafia!) invaded Earth. The Resistance beat them back. Hayes assembles a team of elite soldiers to retrieve the Virtue, and Kaylin is forced to join them. She’s fitted with a bracelet she cannot remove. If she tries the bracelet will trigger an injection of a drug that will knock her out. And if she steps out of line, the bracelet can administer a dose of the drug strong enough to stop her heart.
Kaylin was once a sniper in the Resistance. During a mission, she received orders to kill a child. She refused, and abandoned The Resistance. She swore to never kill again. She also has a pet named Red. Red is an alien lizard, about as intelligent as a terran dog. She has trained the creature to assist in her career as a thief. Red is as large as a monitor lizard. It can camouflage itself, like a chameleon. It also has wings which allow it to glide.
The Virtue is tracked to Paris, France. It was given to a group called The Wardens, a group bent on kicking all aliens off Earth. The problem is that Lio and Marin have informed the Resistance that Earth is in danger of attack from The Ascendancy, a race that wipes out species they consider to be inferior.
The Rhuramenti, the Ascendancy, and almost all intelligent life in the universe is humanoid, most of whom are indistinguishable from humans, because an ancient race, the Creators, possessed of unimaginable technology, spread their seed throughout the universe. They also built the Virtue of War.
Even before they land in Paris a Resistance base located near the city is attacked by the Wardens. Will they get the Virtue of War? Will Kaylin succeed in stealing it for the Resistance? You’ll have a great time finding out!
The characters here, especially Kaylin and Beck, another member of the Special Forces team assigned to steal back the Virtue, feel real and fleshed out. They are not your standard sci-fi two dimensional shoot-em-up tropes. Kaylin lost her brother in the war with the Syndicate. She’s had enough killing and refuses to kill again unless she has no other choice. Beck is a man dedicated to his team and protecting humanity from a universe that is more hostile than we thought it would be.
There’s only one issue I have with this book’s science and it’s mainly just me being overly analytical. At one point Beck hands Kaylin a weapon which is described as a “medium velocity laser pistol.” Wow! That alien tech really must be amazing, since I didn’t realize there was any way to reduce the velocity of light! I thought that in mathematical equations (including the most recognizable of the bunch, E=Mc2) that light was specifically referred to as C because it’s speed is constant.
Aside from that, if you’re looking for hard sci-fi with its feet firmly planted in the rich soil of real science, you may want to stick to authors like Asimov and Clarke. But if you’re looking for a fun, action-packed, globe-trotting romp, then you will appreciate The Virtue of War, which nicely sets off another series that I’m looking forward to keeping up with. Thankfully, that shouldn’t be too long!