Review – Hardship (Theirs Not to Reason Why #4) by Jean Johnson

hardship by jean johnsonPublisher: Ace
Publish date: July 29, 2014
How I got this book: paperback provided by the publisher

It began with a terrible vision of the future. Compelled by her precognitive abilities, Ia must somehow save her home galaxy long after she’s gone. Now Jean Johnson presents the long-awaited epic conclusion to her national bestselling military science fiction series…

Demoralized, their ship destroyed, Ia’s Damned must fight their way out of a planet-bound blockade and back into space. But there is more happening here on Dabin than meets even Ia’s inner eye.

Some of the Feyori, energy-based beings of vast power and arrogance, are moving to block her efforts under the direction of her counter-faction foe, Miklinn. The Terran Army Division stationed on Dabin is not cooperating with her battle plans. Events are not happening as Ia has foreseen, and too many people are now in grave danger, thanks to alien Meddling.

All these hardships are threatening to derail Ia’s carefully laid plans. The Meddlers, however, have made one fatal mistake:

They’re just making Bloody Mary mad.
*Blurb provided by Goodreads

I will be horribly sad to see this series end. At the same time, I really, really wish it finished. I desperately want to know how everything turns out. Unfortunately for fans of the series, book 4 got a bit too long and become book 4, Hardship and book 5, Damnation.

Damnation, indeed.

On the other hand, the story in Hardship, while important to Ia’s story and to the war she is fighting, does have a bit of a feeling of an interlude between major themes, just as Ia and her ship’s company are stuck planetside for this part of their story.

Ia began her story in A Soldier’s Duty (reviewed at Reading Reality) as barely adult and just inducted into the Terran United Planets Space Force (TUPSF) as a Marine grunt. She starts herself at the bottom rung of the ladder because Ia knows that she must. She is a massive precog and she has seen the future. It sucks, it blows and every other epithet you can think of.

All sentient life will be wiped out of the galaxy in 300 years, unless…unless Ia moves herself and everyone she ever contacts into the tiniest sliver of possibility that allows for survival. At the cost of her life and dreams, and the lives of all too many others.

Her duty is to make that change. Not to take it, but to actually force it to come into being out of the slimmest margins of possibility.

She rises through the ranks at relatively quick speed, but only as fast as necessary. Until she and her crew are forced to abandon ship in the middle of the Salik blockade of the planet Dabin. They are stuck planetside until she figures out a solution.

And for the first time, there is someone consciously blocking Ia’s access to the timestreams, rendering her precognition not merely useless, but absolutely detrimental to her own cause. And all because of a stupid game, one that exploits human weaknesses.

Unfortunately those weaknesses are embodied by the Army General in charge of planet-side defenses. He wants to be George S. Patton in a theatre of war that would be much better suited to Merrill’s Marauders. In his ego, totally meddled with by alien players, he’s just sure that he knows better than a mere Ship’s Captain, even one who can see the future.

Ia has to take on her own military command to conserve the lives of the soldiers and the civilians on one planet that she knows is key to the outcome of the war. The question is whether it will end her career, or her life.

The story in Hardship is different from some of the early entries in the series in that this is the first time where Ia’s precognition is completely blocked. Usually, she can see all the possible results of every event, and while watching her navigate the probabilities is fascinating, having a protagonist who really does “know it all” can sometimes lessen the tension in places where it shouldn’t.

In Hardship, Ia’s reduction to something closer to human makes her vulnerable; she doesn’t know much more than we do. She’s still awesome on many fronts, but when her ability is blocked, she loses confidence in herself. Her crisis makes her more human.

Her ability to work the military chain of command, and to know when it’s time to kick ass and ask forgiveness later, is tremendously fun to watch. Her dealings with the recalcitrant general, and what happens when she finally reaches the point where he can’t be allowed to continue, were terrific. I wanted to stand up and cheer when she gives the high command a dressing down on what an idiot the general was, and by extension what idiots they are being.

If you like military SF at all, start with A Soldier’s Duty and get yourself introduced to Ia and the legend of Bloody Mary. She’s awesome.

I give Hardship an A.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the reminder of an awesome series! I’ve met the author a few times at events – and she’s immensely fun – and I inhaled the first two of the series, then somehow missed #3 … so I’m glad I can re-read and get two new reads out of it. Because I definitely think I’m going to have to reread the first two.

    A Soldier’s Duty was one of my favorite SF books ever. I thought it was incredibly original and I just couldn’t imagine how someone (Ia or Jean Johnson) could keep it all up in the air and so precise, when the timestreams and Ia’s choices were so complex – and yet I understood it, and Ia was so human even though her abilities were so superhuman.

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