Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach is like a love letter to all the tons of cool things you can do with science fiction. Devianna “Devi” Morris is a power armored space marine whose career has peaked in her current position. Devi is ambitious and she wants to server with the elite of Emperor’s soldiers but to do that she has to prove her worth. Enter The Glorious Fool a ship whose service record is so perilous that 1 year about her is worth 5 years of experience anywhere else. Devi, anxious to prove herself, signs up for what turns out to be a tour both more mysterious and more perilous than even she could have imagined.
Fortune’s Pawn is high impact military sci-fi with a strong female lead who kick’s ass. With her svelte power armor the Lady Grey Devi is an elite soldier who knows her business and who will be glad tell you so, forcefully if necessary, if you question her. More than a simple badass who can take names Bach takes Devi a step further by delivering a female character who is willing to express herself emotionally and who refuses to bow to double standards when it comes to her sexuality. Devi is a woman who knows what she wants and that is something that applies not only to her career but also to her emotional and sexual needs.
Over the course of Fortune’s Pawn we meet a variety of alien races and human cultures. There is Basil, The Glorious Fool’s, bird-like Aeon navigator whose world of calculations and regulations leaves little room for Devi’s willingess to defy regulation in the service of getting the job done. There are the lizard/insect like Xith-cal, a typically predatory species. Regardless of that fact the ship’s doctor, a former Xith-cal butcher (I’ll let you guess what he butchered), Hyrek manages to become something close to a friend to Devi. There is a Nova Starchild, who is perhaps my favorite character (outside of Devi) in the novel. Nova, a sort of space-hippy raised in a sort of low-gravity commune that believes in oneness with the universe, could have easily been a throwaway character. Devi, who doesn’t really have any specific religious beliefs, could have spurned Nova. Instead, the two strike up a friendship and Nova, who has some measure of psychic ability, seems like she actually might have some more important role to play in the next few novels.
This is adventure, military science-fiction mixed up and blended with a touch of romance and a dash of mystery. This is not hard science fiction. You will not find lengthy explanation on the make-up and composition of The Glorious Fool’s FTL drive, you will not find a careful examination of how science and technology has changed society and culture of humanity at large. What you will find however are huge heaping piles of awesome. This book is FUN. For some maybe that isn’t enough to I absolutely can’t wait for more.