‘The Shorter Parts Of Valor’ by Tanya Huff

I found this collection of short stories because Tanya Huff tweeted an extract from one of them. I don’t know how I missed it coming out back in September but as soon as I knew it was there, I had to have a copy. It’s been four years since I read ‘The Privilege Of Peace’, the eighth book in this series, and I’ve missed Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr, a woman who makes war real and peace a hard-won better option. I told myself that I’d read a story a day up to Christmas, and then I gulped the whole thing down in twenty-four hours.

The first story, ‘Not That Kind Of War’ starts before ‘Valor’s Choice’ the first book in the series and showed me the kind of warfare that helped shape Torin into the pragmatic, quick thinking, Marine Sargeant who held her ground in ‘Valor’s Choice.’ ‘Not That Kind Of War‘ was a simple but vivid story, bringing to life the endless conflict the Confederation are locked into and demonstrating that there’s no room for warrior heroes, at least, not ones who live through the fight. The story plunged me right back into the Valor-verse. There’s a line that Torin only allows herself to use in her head but which sets the tone for a lot of this series:

“What if they held a war and nobody died… Never going to happen.”

The second story,  ‘You Do What You Do’ is a remarkable short that amplified the nature of the war. Torin isn’t in it but it reminded me of one of her thoughts in ‘Not That Kind Of War’ when she reflected that the decades-long war that they were fighting had no single defining ideology and thinks to herself

“But perhaps a war without one single defining ideology was exactly the kind of war that needed an infinite number of defining moments.”

You Do What You Do’ is all about one of those defining moments. In it, Tanya Huff again demonstrates her gift for making the combat and the technology as real as the sacrifices that Heavy Gunner Deena Harmin makes. Deena is one of ‘The One In Four’ humans who can handle having their bodies augmented so that they can wear a powered armour carapace that amplifies her strength and allows her to carry and fire heavy weapons. The story answers a question that civilians ask about Heavy Gunners and perhaps about marines heading to war zones: “Who Would Do That To Themselves?” Tanya Huff’s answer: Those who can. Those who dare. Those who know the cost and choose to pay it if they must.

‘First In’ is another story of a Marine Recon team dealing with the unexpected and having to decide whether ‘Go in. Look around. Come Back’ needs to become ‘Do something you’re not equipped to do because it needs to be done’. It’s strong, clever military SF and, as always in these stories, it’s the casualties that help to make it real.

To Dust We Shall Return’ is my favourite story in the collection. It’s a story that turns out to be quite different from a ‘normal’ Marine Recon mission. The ending is horrifying and credible. The choice that Torin Kerr makes at the end told me a great deal about who she is and what she was willing to sacrifice.

Tanya Huff described ‘To Dust We Shall Return’ as having a The Lady Or The Tiger’ kind of ending, so now I have to go read Stockton’s short story.

‘Long Time Passing’, the final story, was written for this collection and takes place after the events in ‘The Privilege Of Peace’. I’m not sure how much sense this would make to someone who hadn’t read the other books but it worked for me and left me hungry for more. Even though it starts with a lot of scientists getting killed, this story is set in peacetime and the dynamic is quite different. By this point in theories, Torin Kerr is different. She’s a Warden now, keeping the peace for everyone, not fighting battles for the Elder races and it changes the tone of the story. The basic idea behind the story is a clever one and makes for a classic Science Fiction story. Of course, I’d have liked to have gone on to be a full novel… Still, I can hope.

One thought on “‘The Shorter Parts Of Valor’ by Tanya Huff

  1. I bought this back in September, somehow *forgot* and then rediscovered and read it in a single sitting just before Christmas. Such good stories and wonderful to be back with Torin. I’d read the heck out of a novel based on that last story!

    Liked by 1 person

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