When you say screw it and decide to buy the remaining books in a series as you near the end of middle novel, I think this could be defined as a successful novel on the author’s part, or at least evidence of being well entertained by it.
A while back, one of my Kindle’s suggestions for what to read next was book one of The Vixen War Bride by Thomas Doscher. Having a bit of rewards piled up and it sounding like it could be worth a read, I decided to check it out. There went a night’s sleep, lol. The Vixen War Bride is full of amusing cross cultural misunderstandings and people who are trying to do the right thing even if it’s hard to communicate that to the other.
Ben’s forces come from a period where armed security drones making like flying monkeys and optics that can turn night into day, are simply old hat and have been for centuries. Then they get shipped off to an occupied alien planet where the background level of electromagnetic interference is so strong that they may as well be dressed in uniforms from 1942 😅. Life is surely sad when someone has to switch from computer all the things to a Mark I Pencil, but that pales in comparison to the problem of understanding the locals and vice versa. The exchange of weapons of mass destruction between the aliens destroying the American’s colony with an asteroid and several nuclear strikes on the alien home world, surely did not endear either side to the other before the war’s end. Ben and most of his troops come from our destroyed colony, and given the enemies skill for slitting throats in the night and the Va’Shen’s horrific sci-fi weapons, it’s little surprise that most sectors have at best an uneasy relationship with the local population.
Alacea’s village is deserted and the chieftain is giving the Ben’s folk the run around. Fearing that the vicious, cruel, baby eating monsters from outer space will destroy the village in punishment for the war, the community has fled into the hills leaving only a few behind that are too old to make the long journey to shelter. When the Alacea barrels into town to face the dark ones according to their custom, she literally sets off a storm. In their culture, the head priestess is responsible to the community and arguing their position before their gods. If your Na’Sha guides her community and argues well when entering the afterlife, she may make it to the glade and her people be blessed with good fortune, or if her community is not righteous, sacrifice themself to an eternity in the frosts beyond and pray the gods be merciful in the hardships set upon their community to set them back on the right path. It’s into such a culture that paths cross.
It doesn’t take very long before cross cultural communication to rear its head and begin the snowball effect. Alacea’s confession to war crimes against humanity is quickly understood to be full of shit, but she’s the only one who will both talk to the Dark Ones and knows where the villagers are hiding. Deciding maybe-pissed-off villagers down the road are better than angry ambushes out of know where, Ben wants them to come home and live normally. Sadly, the Va’Shen language is virtually unknown and they are just lucky to have an interpreter along that can “Kind of” speak the language. Convincing Alacea that Ben’s people won’t destroy the village or kill them all in a rage is virtually impossible, and convincing her to help them is hard to do when your terp can barely speak the same language herself.
Thanks to a mix up in translation and very different social histories this results in Ben and Alacea’s sudden marriage! Not quite the help the terp was trying to ask for, lol.
For one whose culture sees marriage and divorce as but a post card in the mailbox, and one whose culture sees marriage integral to every part of their society, it’s quite the mix up. But it’s one full of story potential.
For Alacea, it’s a chance to secure her community’s safety from the dark ones and direct the dark one’s anger away from her people. For Ben, it’s a chance to avoid hundreds of angry villagers wiping his company off the map before the army knows they’ve even been hit. Somewhere in the middle, the truth is it’s a great opportunity for peace and understanding, if they don’t kill each other first.
By the Va’Shen customs, marriage is forever and taking the head priestess as a bride is an old way for a conquering overlord to dominate a village, but by extension her community becomes his and due some measure of protection. But how can some alien from Earth know their ways? Everyone in Pelle expects such cruelty and horror from the humans that few Va’Shen believe their Na’Sha’s sacrifice will protect them. By human customs a few hundred years into the future, divorce rates are over 80% and far less eternal than anything known on the alien world. A world so foreign yet familiar, that flashlights are a water jar full of rocks that grow when wet and sound-reactive crops can rot if you fly loud helicopters overhead.
The journey to where the villagers of Pelle are hiding and their return home sets the tone well. I especially loved how the discussion of how Alacea can be sure Ben won’t harm her village and that she will kill him if he does betray her plays out. Seeing that she’s unlikely to succeed in it but will make it her dedicated mission in life if that comes to pass, Ben hands her his Ka-Bar and tells her if he breaks his promise not to harm her people, she can use that knife to kill him for it. Likewise, the brawl between Ramirez and an angry young farm hand that turns into a friendly exhibition while folks were discussing peaceful terms, that then snowballs into Alacea and Yasuno yelling at tod for his stupidity until the Ranger feels bad for the guy, was just freaking hilarious and well executed.
By the second book, Holdouts, the antics of SSgt Ramirez and huntress Alzoria seriously had me laughing my ass off and made it quite the binge read. Both Ben and Alacea’s own antics end up intersecting and making it quite a story. It was great, best book in the series so far. By the end of the third book, Uncivil Affairs, both main characters now know the embarrassing truth of how their marriage occurred and have stirred up a storm. I’ve been entertained well enough that towards the end, I had to exercise Amazon’s button for buying the remaining books in the series thus far.
I love stories that turn the expected on its head and that build upon the characters and situations. Good science fiction rarely has anything to do with science directly, so much as the technology is a backdrop that enables the story.