Sergeant Ethan Stark commands the American armed forces on the moon, who have mutinied against incompetent officers; they must establish a relationship with the American colony, defend against foreign lunar forces, and, at the end, defend against foreign troops sent by the American government. Sergeant Stark never wanted to lead the American lunar forces. But he initiated a rebellion against his incompetent officers when they persisted in a futile attack, and his fellow soldiers elected him as their leader. The question is, now what?
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First they have to repel the foreign forces on the moon, who are trying to take advantage of the American command shakeup. The foreigners press the advantage, nearly routing the American forces, until Stark himself leads the Americans' final stand—and then it's the foreigners who are running away. But now comes the hard part. He has to get the military to get along with the civilian colony, since they need each other now more than ever. The problem is that the soldiers think the “civs” hate them. And sometimes they're right. Most of the time though, the soldiers are not hated, and Stark is able to negotiate things like getting the civilian colony to help care for their wounded. Still, it's an ongoing battle to get the two sides to get along. And on top of that, Stark to take care of administrative issues left over from the takeover, like what to do with the general's personal garden. (Complete with live plants. On the moon.) He arranges for the wounded soldiers to visit the garden in shifts. And he has to figure out who to assign to be security officer—he picks the most devious mind on base, Stacey Yeruvian, known for things like her illegal gambling setup. He figures she'll jump at the chance to have bigger fish to fry—and he's right. He also has to figure out what to do with some Navy sailors (ship pilots) who also rebel, and ask to join his forces. He lets them in. Then Stark has to deal with some representatives from Earth who come to the moon to try and negotiate—but basically ask for unconditional surrender.
While all of this is going on, Stark arranges for an exchange of prisoners, his old officers for the family members of his soldiers. But he gets something he didn't bargain for— Grant Stein, the younger brother of Kate Stein, his mentor from many years ago who died in a botched mission. The thing is, Grant is a mole. He provides information to the American government back at home, which uses his info to plan an attack of foreign soldiers on the American lunar base. It's almost successful too, and probably would have been, were it not for the vigilance of the civilians, and their willingness to communicate their suspicions to the military. Grant hates Stark, because he blames him for his sister's death. But the raid has cost a lot of people their lives, and Stark makes a difficult decision: He has Grant executed.
Best part of story, including ending:
As with the previous book in this series, Stark's War, this book had interesting character interactions. Again, I enjoyed the friendship between Stark and Vic--it's rare that you see such a close bond between people of opposite genders, that is not a sexual relationship. I also enjoyed getting into the mind of a soldier, and a leader, with all of its complications.
Best scene in story:
I liked the scenes where Stark and Vic "talked shop," i.e. discussed being soldiers and being in command. Some of them were even a little funny. One in particular that I liked was the one where they were discussing the failed final raid, and how the invaders expected Stark and Vic to be in the Commanding General's suite. Together. At night. As Stark says to Vic, "They know something about us I don't?"
Opinion about the main character:
Sergeant Stark is a good leader, and I enjoyed seeing how he motivated the people he commanded, and how he interacted with his friends.