A Review of: Victories Greater Than Death, by Charlie Jane Anders

Once again, very surprised this is categorized as a YA book. And based on one reviewer – a younger persons YA book. Which … really? Perfectly fine reading for adult minds! With plenty of complex ideas and plot problems for the characters to sort out.

Firstly: I really loved this book! It’s an action packed intergalactic adventure, with great characters, thoughtful character growth and arcs, interesting story line – with plenty to keep your eyes glued to the page. Fresh.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My favorite thing was all the most interesting and entertaining ‘call and response’ greetings employed in the book. So creative, and varied!.
“Good food and lucky escapes.” “Strong drinks and unexpected friends”
“Brave comrades and predictable enemies,”
“Raucous celebrations and few funerals.”
“A beautiful life, and a worthy death.”
“Epic love affairs, and no hatred.”

Also.. This: “Got ourselves a 3HM,” someone sitting behind me in Forward Ops mutters.
(“3HM” is short for “three-headed monster,” or a situation with no good options. It’s a different acronym in every language, I guess.)

Another nice aspect, which makes 100% sense in a universe full of creatures that are humanoid, and not so much humanoid – when ever they speak, they introduce themselves with their name, and pronouns. Which naturally reach beyond pronouns as we know them, because some species have more than 2 sexes. Or are so different we have no concept. Etc.

And to deal with communications – each person’s uniform has a built in ‘translator’, so you hear whatever the other persons says, in your own language. It’s quite effective, but it doesn’t have all the details – like local planetary slang variations of the earthlings. Which makes it a little entertaining at times, as it’s meant to be. So this sorts out neatly how do all these many variety of aliens communicate so simply?

** spoilers ahead**

It was interesting to start the book on earth, with high school kids. There was enough ground work laid, that it made sense for the plot.

Young Tina, who presents as ‘earthling teen girl’; is actually an alien species, who was ‘hidden’ on earth, as an infant, with modified DNA, to hide. Her alien peers, backed up her brain & DNA when she was on her deathbed, and then cloned (?) her DNA, edited to seem human, and hustled the infant to earth, to grow up in hiding.

Tine, and her ‘mom’ knew this all along – Tina’s mom raised her, knowing that when she reached age of maturity, her ‘beacon’ would activate, and the aliens would come for her. All the aliens. The bad ones who’s probably want to kill her, again, along with the star ship army [the Royal Fleet] she was Captain of, before her death.

Growing up Tina ‘knew’ she was an alien, and had the beacon, but not a lot more. Just the hollow feeling of wanting to be more, do more, matter.

The beacon does initiate, and as advertised, the baddies show up trying to kill her. Though I’m a wee bit fuzzy, because they’re intent to kill the being with the beacon. But they don’t actually know per say that the Captain is reborn into the human body.

So… mayhem ensues. Tina runs, like she was taught to do. Unfortunately, her bestie, Rachel happens to be with her, and refuses to leave her on her own. So now, not only is she trying to stay alive until the Royal Fleet collects her, but also keeping Rachel alive too. Turns out, having backup is a good thing.

Spoiler: the bad aliens don’t capture/kill her/them. The Royal Fleet does in fact grab her up, in the knick of time. And Tina too, because she needs medical attention. So Rachel’s dream comes true, of getting to see the Space ship. And she doesn’t want to give that up.

Rachel asks to stay, and join them. They agree. And just like that, space adventure ensues!

The Royal Fleet is in bad shape, the ship is damaged, and the crew is dwindling from so many battles. Rachel suggests they recruit a few more earthlings. As it turns out, the Royal Fleet makes a habit of monitoring civilizations and their advancements. So as a result, there is a system in play, already, to find the most advanced minds. Th system more or less hides in plain sight, and changes as times change.

Humorously, at this point in time, it connects with human through smartphone apps. Games, to be specific. Many, that search out the most advanced minds… they work thru the levels of the games.

So, they set out to ‘invite’ the winners to join. Carefully crafting an invite, that should make it clear they’re never going to return to earth, etc etc. Naturally this goes sideways, and the recipients all believe it is ‘just a game’ , part of the winner game speech, and that they won; but not that there are Aliens, and they’ are leaving earth. Etc.

A few teens ‘accept’ and are beamed up on the ‘elevators’ to the ship. They are in shock, because aliens. Space ships. For real? Battles ensue around them from the bad aliens, and thy are away from earth in search of repairs, before the teens can choose for real to stay or go. Thy must deal with the reality, and jump in to help the ship and crew fight for their lives.

And it is fun.

Back to Tina – who now aboard the ship, is put thru a medical treatment , to ‘wake up’ all her previously life Captain Argentian memories. Except, it doesn’t go as planned. The procedure does not bring back her memories. So she is not the Captain returned, as was planned with the who’s DNA hidden in child, hidden on earth part. She does, however, gain all the knowledge, skills, and know how for everything the captain knew, just not the memories. So, she knows every Alien, their planet, their pronouns, etc, etc, but not say, a personal friendship with this one in particular. It creates quite a mess of direction. But it’s not all lost – as she does have a lot of valuable information at her reach. Which allows her to offer some excellent input and ideas. Even, dare we say – with fresh eyes.

The story is chock full of many variety of different aliens, with enough detail on their physiology, appearance, pronouns, home planets, cultural difference – that you get a clear vision of who the cast is. And it is very interesting and unique! The creatures are well described, and detailed. A variety of creative differences in so many different ways. We were never left wondering more – well ok, yes, obviously. But they were well enough attended to , that you could form a clear idea in your mind of who they are. A success of story right there – as it never felt like an info dump – and there are bay far a million more things to which we have no ‘real life’ concept of – so we have to imagine it, which takes a lot of detailing.

And then there’s Marrant. When he touches you, and kills you, it leaves your memory ‘blacklisted’. Everyone all the sudden thinks you are the worst scum of the universe. And the way this is handles in book – it so Frackking hilarious.

“We obtained the objective,” I say to Captain Othaar and Alternate Captain Lyzix, as soon as we’re back on the ship. I hold up the Talgan stone, which still just looks like an old piece of granite with some scratchy lines on it. “Unfortunately, Vaap and Iyiiguol … didn’t make it.” I try to sound appropriately mournful.
Captain Othaar shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter. They were both a disgrace to this uniform.”
“Agreed.” Lyzix flexes her ears in disgust. “I always loathed both of them.”
I almost drop the Talgan stone. I stare at the two captains, and I don’t know what to say.
“Vaap was your friend,” I say at last.
“Can’t believe I actually thought that,” Othaar says.

Charlie Jane Anders

The adventure is non stop. Escape the bad aliens, find the clues to stop them, repair the ship, deal with attacks, save other aliens, battle… and take down the biggest baddie. Without too much casualty. But with heaps of challenges, setbacks, problems, and issues to solve along the way.

Weave in personal drama and interaction between the group of earthlings, from different personality types, to personal baggage, to breaking cycles of attitude, and beliefs that really have to value on the Space Fleet, because they’re tiny earthling mindsets. (one is introverted. Another had father issues. Another is against government. Another is transsexual. Another just broke up with girlfriend, and is struggling being his own self. Then, there’s Tina, who is struggling with the fact that she Is Captain Argentian, but also not. How to live up to this expectation, without the memories?) etc. ) Breaking the mold, and expanding to a bigger, more global thinking. It’s a great metaphor for what needs to happen in all earthling minds.
Overall: super fun, interesting read. Long enough to feel like a full book. Enough resolution to feel like a complete story. But with enough potential – I will look forward to the next one in the trilogy. And hope that it also gets made into a fantastic movie or tv series. Would be fantastic. I want to see the aliens. And Tina’s natural state with purple skin, hair, eyes.

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