I’m a big fan of JN Chaney and I’ve made it a point to plan to read Terry Mixon’s big space opera books. I’m a space opera writer myself and I’ve heard nothing but good things about both writers. Still, there’s always the question of where to begin with an author who has an extensive library. In both authors’ case, they have quite a few series out. So, in the end, I decided to try THE LAST HUNTER based on the laziest of all methods: I really like the cover. I love the fancy uniform of the protagonist with its big shoulder epaulets.
The premise is Jack Romanoff is being forcibly retired by the military due to the fact, well, he accidentally hit a luxury liner during one of his missions. That’s the official story. The unofficial (and true) story is that he is hated by most of the upper brass because his father is their former Grand Admiral and made a bunch of enemies on his way out. Oh and Jack hasn’t been making the expected bribes necessary for a promotion to Commodore.
Romanoff probably would have done well in the private sector but gets a somewhat idiosyncratic rescue from his father who uses backdated orders and favors to get him assigned to a museum ship from the Locust War. In what is probably an homage to the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, Romanoff is put in charge of the mothballed (but still reserved) Delta Orionus that is the most powerful battleship in the galaxy but expensive as hell to maintain.
Much to my surprise and enjoyment, the majority of the book is devoted to the logistics of the protagonist trying to get the ship back into fighting shape. The casual embezzlement, corruption, black marketeering, and general apathy he faces are more interesting to me than a thousand battles with alien hordes. It’s a nice change of pace that the most dangerous enemy are the people funneling project budgets into their accounts ala the Russian Federation (though we saw how that worked out for them in their current conflict).
The book has some flaws. This is a pretty black and white setting where the good guys are incredibly good and the bad guys are almost cartoonishly bad. This is something I’ve found a lot in space opera and it’s a personal bugbear. The human bad guys in these things tend to be a combination of smug, incompetent, and evil that I wish they’d just pick two of. Still, it does make it very satisfying to see our heroes defeat them through the power of logistics.
Indeed, the fact the book takes a significantly long time to get to the issue of the robot insect invasion is something that causes me to recommend it so highly. Our hero has to deal with things like supply chains, JAG offices, and even going down to military memorabilia collector swap meets in order to try to get the necessary parts for his ship to run. It’s something I haven’t seen much of in space opera and helps elevate the material. There’s also no tacked on romance, which I felt was a nice omission.
In conclusion, I recommend THE LAST HUNTER for fans of space opera looking for an easy read that isn’t just battling Space Nazis or evil alien insect hordes. The evil alien hordes are here but it’s not the focus of the book. Instead, we have a logistics-focused book about trying to navigate corruption and widespread logistics issues for repairing a necessary vessel.