Orbit, Apr 2008, $6.99
As an advisor to the Tibetan rebels, General Jason Wander had orders not to fire at the Chinese troops unless he came under fire from them. However, he could not let the rebels he trusted die in combat so he disobeys a direct order. To keep him out of further trouble the brass exiles him to the New Moon resort station where scientists work on figuring out how to fly a space ship captured from a Slug with engine powered Cavorite at its core. The ship was captured during the most recent hostility. Jason is on the station to get his godson Jude to power it up with reflexes only he has and which are needed to interface with the engine starting up.
Jason persuades Jude they need it done so they can fly back to earth together, but something goes wrong; the Cavorite fueled ship takes off from the station and travels through a black hole before landing on the planet Bren. For a millennium they have mined Cavorite and given it to the Slugs so they will be left alive and alone to fight amongst themselves. However, when Jason and his crew touch down, the Slugs decide to eradicate all humans except those they need as drones and slaves. Jason has to unite the feuding clans, who have been at war with one another for years, if they hope to extricate the Slugs from Bren for that is the only way they will survive. Adding to his dilemma is the Slugs are breeding so his chances of winning are nil unless he can come up with a dramatic Hail Mary. Whatever happen he is responsible because the clan leaders named him Commander.
The latest Jason Wander military science fiction thriller (see ORPHANAGE and ORPHAN’S DESTINY) is a great space opera reminiscent of the early Heinlein sagas. The protagonist still struggles with accepting that in war there are casualties including collateral damage of the innocent. He detests that he sends men to their deaths, but understands the greater good. He is sensitive and willing to disobey orders if he feels they are wrong. However, what makes this tale so strong is the insight into Bren culture where Homo sapiens fight one another with nineteenth century equivalent technology while avoiding a confrontation with the Slugs.