Today's book review is Blackcollar: The Judas Solution by Timothy Zahn. This is the third and (and fairly certainly final) book in the Blackcollar series. Blackcollar was one of Tim's earliest novels. Blackcollar: The Backlask Mission was several years ago. This book uses the world set up in the first two and specifically refers quite a lot to events in the second. I think it would be confusing to read it without knowing any of the backstory, but since my memory of the backstory is not very fresh and it mostly made sense, it might stand on its own.
Partway through this book I was starting to feel bored with another military SF book; stories of wonderful fights are wearing a little thin right now. But then the plot started getting more twists than a pretzel factory, and there was a little more fun to it once we finally learned how all the pieces fit together. The overarching plan, once it's revealed, is kind of cool, though it does leave us wondering how, if humans are that much smarter than the aliens, how they lost the war in the first place to set the stage for the entire series.
One thing I do have to say is that this is a much better book than its cover. If you're like me and can't keep yourself from looking at the cover picture over and over during the reading of a book, do yourself a favor and take the dust jacket off before starting this (assuming you have the 2006 hardcover edition with the Mattingly cover, just in case another edition comes along).
Overall, a pretty good story; it kept me engaged, though somewhat confused, all the way through. 7 out of 10.
Prefect Galway, a loyalty-conditioned human, has a complex plot to control the Blackcollars and use them (unwitting) as weapons in the Ryqril war against the Chryselli. He captures a guy named Karl Judas, who's a clone of Caine, who apparently was important in the earlier books but I forget why, and slips him into Lathe's Blackcollar team. Unfortunately, Lathe is much too smart to be fooled, and manages to guide events his way while seeming to be doing what Galway wants. The Ryqril have built a new tac center on an obscure planet, and Galway's plan is to have the Blackcollars break into it to prove to the Ryqril how useful Blackcollars can be. (It will be revealed somewhere in the middle of the book that the center is actually a duplicate of a Chryselli center that the Ryqril want to break into but aren't smart enough to figure out how.) There's a simultaneous operation on Earth, but unfortunately I can't remember what the initial reason for it was. Judas is swapped into the Earth team for Caine. Then a bunch of Earth resistance people are captured, and Galway and Lathe manipulate each other into getting them rescued. Jensen, a Blackcollar with a bad case of survivor's guilt, and Foxleigh, a fighter pilot who was AWOL when Earth got conquered and has been dealing with his own guilt ever since, do their own rogue operation to break into Aegis Mountain (which was the target of the second book); Foxleigh gets his suicide mission while Jensen manages to learn his lesson. Eventually, all the improbable Blackcollar missions succeed, with the real objective being to demand that the Ryqril surrender the former Terran empire on the grounds that Whiplash (the undetectable drug that breaks loyalty conditioning) will eventually rot the whole human quisling bureaucracy that allows the Ryqril to hold the human worlds while they're having a tough fight with the Chryselli. It actually kind of makes sense in the book, and the Ryqril actually buy it, allowing a few hundred superhuman warriors to actually defeat the aliens who beat the whole human interstellar empire in a stand up fight through superior brain power.