Review: Once A Hero, by Elizabeth Moon

I do not read the Familias Regnant books for deep discourse but for entertainment so Once A Hero surprised me a bit with being a somewhat darker than the previous three.

The protagonist, Esmay Suiza, has recurring and extremely disturbing nightmares, and her lack of will to confront and treat these symptoms affects her Fleet career negatively.

After having saved the day at the Xavier battle (as told in Winning Colors) she faces a court martial for treachery and mutiny. Exonerated she leaves for home, a place she has no love towards, and learns both why the nightmares and why she have sought a new home, in the Fleet.
Returning to Fleet she is afraid of getting labelled insane, something that can only end with her being sent to the one place she will never go back to – where her family lives.

Her personal struggle and doubt brings depth to a story that else would had been a not only predictable but shallow space opera. That a roomful of male admirals should cede critical command to a young (my guess is 25-ish) female Lieutenant with a doubtful track record is beyond belief – it just doesn’t happen. And that a band of 25 culturally illiterate commandos can take over a major Fleet vessel, staffed with 25.000 people… well, makes all those Bruce Willis saves the world-films like factual truths, eh ;-)

My main objection, though, is people are dying left and right, some of them while being abused, but you never feel affected by it. This book is as clinically clean as a Star Trek Next Generation episode, stuffed with red uniformed nobodies that gets mutilated and what not but without the stench and the terror that should go with it.

I still liked the book. It’s a capturing and fast read, suitable for when the mind can’t take serious thought for long. Like when you’re down with fever and “almost pneumonia” (to cite my doctor), which at the time I was. (Or is – I’m not completely recovered even yet.)


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