cover image Rats, Bats & Vats

Rats, Bats & Vats

Dave Freer. Baen Books, $23 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-671-31940-3

Freer (The Forlorn) and Flint (Mother of Demons) join forces in this lighthearted SF offering set on the colony world of Harmony and Reason, which is being invaded by the dreaded, insectoid alien Magh'. Chip, a former sous-chef and ""vat""--a human bred for hard labor--finds himself trapped behind enemy lines with the rats and bats of the title, genetically engineered animals designed for close-quarters combat, stealth and plenty of off-color wisecrackery. But when Virginia Shaw, a daughter of the yuppie Shareholder class, gets caught behind enemy lines with her alien tutor, and Chip and Co. rescue her, the sexual sparks start to fly. Chip and Ginny recognize that their class hatred is an obstacle to defeating the Magh'; when the two learn to cooperate, everyone soon lends a hand or paw or wing, refurbishing a rusty old farm tractor, on which animal and human careen through Magh' defenses. Although the military SF plot is peppered with its share of Dirty Dozen-esque cliffhangers, the sharpest moments in this giddy entertainment are those where the rodents blithely skewer human mores. (Sept.)