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Once A Hero
Elizabeth Moon
Baen Books, 400 pages

Once A Hero
Elizabeth Moon
Elizabeth Moon grew up in south Texas, 250 miles south of San Antonio and eight miles from the Mexican border. She attended Rice University and joined the US Marines in 1968. With a second degree in biology, she entertained thoughts about going to med school after her husband, but circumstances intervened.

Elizabeth Moon Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Rules of Engagement
SF Site Review: Remnant Population
Christina Schulman on Rules of Engagement, Once a Hero and Remnant Population
Peter D. Tillman on the Heris Serrano books

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

While I wouldn't describe Elizabeth Moon's military space opera Once A Hero as "Resplendent" (as advertised on the back cover) it otherwise lived up quite well to its fawning blurbs.

The second book in a series, this novel opens with Lieutenant Esmay Suiza facing a court martial and board of inquiry, investigating her role in a mutiny aboard her last ship, during which all the senior officers were killed and she ended up in command. Not only did she take command, she managed to win a space war and save a planet. Many people view Suiza as a hero, but the upper ranks are nervous about junior officers who kill senior ones (even senior traitors) so it's not clear whether she'll be exonerated or scapegoated.

And Suiza doesn't feel like a hero. She's just somebody doing her job and she wishes all the notoriety will die down. But it won't, of course. Her life and her military career will never be the same again.

Elizabeth Moon gets away with a lot in this book, mostly because she's a very solid writer. For example, the real action doesn't start until just after the halfway point; nonetheless Moon managed to hold my interest with little activities, bits of character development, and a whole lot of technical space station details that ought to have been boring but weren't.

And once the action starts, it cooks! This is top notch space opera, complete with Evil Villains (the "Blood Horde"), space battles, sabotage, and fighting in the corridors. It was tough to put down.

My only quibble with this novel was the characterization of Esmay. Moon made a very good attempt at portraying a woman who underwent a childhood trauma and has never dealt with it, but Esmay was just a little bit flat and the resolution to her problems was too pat. Not having read many other Moon novels I wasn't sure whether this was the result of less than excellent writing, or whether Moon deliberately backed off in order not to scare away techno-nerd readers or PG-14 conscious editors.

Still, this is a good plane or train book, already ferry-tested by a tired, grouchy commuter.

Copyright © 2002 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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