cover image Rules of Engagement

Rules of Engagement

Elizabeth Moon, Moon. Baen Books, $22 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-671-57777-3

Headstrong Brun Meager, daughter of the immensely powerful Speaker of the Table of Ministries, idolizes the slightly older Lieutenant Esmay Suiza, who is taking command track classes with her at the Fleet training facility. Esmay is too busy with her double load of courses to have much time for the younger woman, so Brun turns to handsome Barin Serrano to spice up her hours. The trouble is, Barin and Esmay had just been falling in love with one another. Brun's interference causes a distraught and overburdened Esmay to utter several ill-considered comments--including that Brun ""has the morality of a mare in heat,"" a statement that gets passed to the newswires, which are ever eager for gossip about the rich and famous Brun. So when Brun is kidnapped, surgically muted, raped and impregnated by member of the New Texas Godfearing Militia, Esmay is considered the catalyst of Brun's headlong flight into torment. Esmay must clear her name, help save Brun and decide what to do about Barin--or risk a life filled with disgrace and loneliness. This sequel to Moon's popular Once A Hero (1997) is military space opera awash in suds. Moon's manipulative tricks, moreover, especially regarding Brun's prideful stupidity and hideous comeuppance as a sex slave, will at times be obvious to savvy readers. Even so, intensely lively characters, inspired details (including a bar comprised of salvaged parts from destroyed ships) and smart pacing ensure that the novel will win, if not prizes, at least readers' interest. (Dec.)