Today's book review is Choice of the Cat by E. E. Knight.
This is the second book in the Vampire Earth series, following Way of the Wolf. It would probably stand on its own -- there is not very much reference to events in the first book -- but it would certainly be easier to understand who the main character is and what the world is starting from the first book.
I enjoyed the feel of the writing in this book. It engaged my attention and was fun to read; these qualities are what really make me like or dislike a book. The plot is rather contrived, and it does suffer some of the inevitability created by the fact that the hero of the series has to survive. The supporting characters are pretty thin, but they're appealing as long as you don't worry much about it, and the non-stop action doesn't leave much room for worrying. It's the novel equivalent of an action movie -- it's a fun ride, as long as you're ready to just enjoy it.
8 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- MASSIVE SPOILERS ****
David ends up in command of a unit when its captain is badly wounded. The captain's final orders are to hold his position. A Cat named Duvalier brings intelligence that a bad attack is coming and they will be wiped out if they hold; then she vanishes. David follows Duvalier's advice and takes a lot of casualties, coming through better than he would have if he'd followed the captain's last orders but a lot worse than they would have if the captain had been giving competent orders before he was wounded. To save his own ass, the captain gets David court-martialed. As David is trying to decide whether to fight it, possibly be executed, and have his career tainted even if he wins, or to resign from the service he's genuinely committed his life to, Duvalier reappears. David is very drunk and makes a clumsy pass at the sexy Cat, putting her off of him personally, but she convinces him to resign and become a Cat. More mystical Lifeweaver training ensues.
In the KZ in Nebraska, David and Duvalier come into conflict about their job. Their job is to find information and report back to Southern Command, but David wants to actually help the people there, even though risking their own lives means risking their intelligence. After their mission in Lincoln, they learn that the Twisted Cross is moving against the Brands, nomadic cattle herders in the Nebraska sand dunes country. David prevails and they stay with the Eagles Wings brand and help them to survive the attack. Then they proceed to Omaha. Now Duvalier wants to report back but David wants to learn more details of the Twisted Cross and its mysterious General. They split up. David saves the life of Ahn-Kha, one of a different species of Grog called Golden Ones. The Golden Ones are master engineers, smarter and more civilized than the usual Grogs. They've been badly repressed for their previous rebellions but would still be willing to fight the Kur if they had a chance. David breaks into a building looking for explosives and inadvertently discovers the secret of the Twisted Cross: human operators immersed in coffin-like tanks are operating the Reapers with guns. He destroys the coffins here. When those Reapers stop acting intelligently, it is the catalyst for the Golden Ones to revolt and take out the barracks. David is now supposed to rendezvous with Duvalier, but he's convinced that if he just leaves now, his new Golden One allies will be wiped out before Southern Command can possibly move to help. With Ahn-Kha as his sidekick, he sneaks into the Cave, the Twisted Cross home base, and singlehandedly takes out most of the reaper-controllers and trashes the core of the base before being captured. When he wakes up, he's facing the General, as over the top a villain as you could hope for, who intends to corrupt David and make him an ally. David is saved from choosing to be shot now or play along for a while when Ahn-Kha shows up and kills the General (whose death is pretty graphic and thorough, but I'm still expecting him to come back in the next book). Duvalier is with the rescue force and with David during his recovery. She is still playing hard to get at the end, even though they're pretty clearly meant to be sleeping with each other.