Sergeant Ethan Stark commands the American forces on the moon, in this, the third book in a series; Stark's forces are technically in mutiny (against incompetent officers), but he defends the American colony against foreign invaders, while at the same time protecting American interests at home, and in the end, he becomes something of a hero. In the first and second books of this series, Sergeant Stark led a rebellion against incompetent and uncaring officers on Earth's moon, officers who had ordered the deaths of nearly a third of America's total armed forces, by persisting in a pointless, useless lunar assault. While America dominates Earth, foreign forces have gained a foothold on the moon. It had been the task of Stark and his comrades to shake them loose. They had been somewhat good at it too, or would have been, if their officers hadn't been so incompetent. Even now that they've mutinied, they still fight on, and while at first Stark's not quite sure what his final objective is, he comes to realize it's the revitalization of America, the remaking of it into what it's supposed to be—not by overthrowing the government, but through established governmental processes. Because America is being governed by corporate interests, who are as selfish and incompetent as the officers who once led Stark's forces—and indeed, have had a hand in the actions of those officers.
The book opens with a sneak attack by Stark on the enemy lunar forces—Stark starts a space battle, and in the confusion, lands shuttles with soldiers behind enemy lines, as though they belong to the enemy forces. It works, and the Americans are able to destroy munitions that had been stored for an assault against them. One of the shuttles is destroyed escaping, but though through the brave actions of its pilot and crew most lives on board are saved.
Then Stark must deal with a sneak attack on the colony, again by foreign troops on America's payroll. These troops head for the power plant, hoping to cripple the colony and its army; Stark's forces are able to repel and capture the invaders, but at a heavy loss to the power plant's small group of defenders.
The next attack is more insidious. Stark finds himself dealing with a mutiny of his own, as some of the soldiers take over barracks and gain control of an ammo magazine. Stark is able to take them down with suit-disabling ammo, ammo which, thankfully, doesn't hurt the soldiers. This ammo even comes in handy later on.
You see, the Americans back home on Earth are getting nervous. After the failed attacks with foreign soldiers (one in this book and one in the previous one), they've decided to send some automated fighters—essentially, killer robots. Stark and his group were warned about the robots earlier, and have been working on ways to take them down. One of the ways they came up with was the bullets they used on the mutineers, which they anticipate will disable the robots' systems. The bullets worked wonderfully on the mutineers, but they aren't sure the bullets will work on the robots until they actually arrive.
Meanwhile, there's another crisis. Some shuttles arrive with kids on board—members of the soldiers' families that the lunar forces are exchanging for some of their old officers. The problem is, the colony knew about them, but neither Stark's foces nor the blockade around the colony have been notified. The blockade's ships think they're smugglers, and send another type of robot after them—killer robot ships that can't be called back. So when the blockade's ships finally figure out that the ships are carrying kids, it's too late—that is, it seems like it is, until Chief Wiesman, the leader of Stark's Navy forces, sacrifices herself and her ship to buy the shuttles time to get inside the colony's defenses.
Then the robots arrive. The special bullets work, along with the tactics of Stark's foces, and the robots are destroyed. But the Americans had to send some soldiers up with them. And those soldiers are about to be overrun by the foreign forces on the moon. Stark and his soldiers join the Americans who had been sent to defeat them, and repel the foreign forces—Stark knows that the Americans who've come to fight them are needed back on Earth, to defend America there. Meanwhile, back home, America is in turmoil. American citizens aren't happy about what's been going on on the moon, and Stark has been able to help things along a little with some well-placed messages. The government decided to postpone elections so they could try and retain some of their power, but then government buildings are overrun by protesters, who make sure elections take place. Stark has sparked not just a mutiny of his armed forces, but a political revolution. Since the people who should be in power, the people, are back in control, Stark surrenders himself to their authority pretty much unconditionally. He never wanted to defeat America, just the corrupt politicians and officers, and he defended America when he had plenty of opportunity not to. So they grant him amnesty, and confirm the acting rank of all enlisted, including him—which makes him a general.
Best part of story, including ending:
Once again, I enjoyed the banter between Stark and his best friend Vic Reynolds, but I also enjoyed the way Stark was able to keep from fighting Americans, and in fact was able to save America from itself. The political aspects were interesting, and fascinating.
Best scene in story:
Favorite scene: I liked the scene where Stark and Chief Wiseman, the commander of his naval forces, are having a discussion about strange traditions in the navy (starship fleet). It starts with Wiseman saying she'd like to “splice the main brace,” meaning have a beer. She has no idea why it's called that. Then she mentions how every night, on a naval ship, they say the smoking lamp is out, and every morning they say it's lit. She has no idea what a smoking lamp is. It's a funny conversation :).
Opinion about the main character:
I like how Stark is a great leader, I like how he has a sense of humor, and I enjoyed reading about his sense of honor immensely. I like the loyalty he has to America and the values that made America great, even as he shakes America to its very foundations.