Jay Allan is rapidly becoming one of my favourite modern military sci-fi authors. His Crimson Worlds series has definitely upped the ante for the genre. His ability to write great characters, great action, and great plots is by no means unique- in fact if you've done a bit of reading in the genre, his books basically take the best ideas of other authors and turn them into something refreshing but familiar. What makes him different, though, is his ability to consistently deliver really high quality writing within a universe that he has built, all by his own self.
A Little Rebellion picks up right where The Cost of Victory left off, with all of your favourite characters and ideas very much intact. Erik Cain, Sarah Linden, Elias Holm, Darius Jax, Augustus Garrett, and Terrence Compton are all present and accounted for, and they are supplemented by a raft of interesting new characters, both good and evil. The book greatly expands upon the shadowy Alliance Directorate from the previous book, making it very clear that Gavin Stark is indeed a Very Scary Person with a Very Devious Plan, which involves Very Bad Things for the main characters of the book.
I mock, slightly, the plot of the book only because it is actually all a bit predictable. This book is not going to contain any real surprises for anyone, if we're really honest. It was inevitable to anyone paying attention to the plot lines of the second book that this kind of book was coming, and soon, in the series. If you recall the events of the previous book (assuming you've read it, of course- if you haven't then please do, it's worth your time), basically the Western Alliance emerged as the dominant military and political power in human-controlled space after soundly defeating the Caliphate and the Central Asian Combine in a massive series of pitched battles in space and on the ground. However, it also became very clear in The Cost of Victory that the Alliance's colonies really didn't like the Alliance central government, at all, and were itching to get out from under the thumbs of corrupt bureaucrats and politicians who might as well have been half a galaxy away.
Let me put it this way: if you've read the Starfire series, specifically Rebellion and Crusade, then you know what's coming. This book literally takes the template laid out by David Weber and Steve White in Rebellion and adapts it to the Crimson Worlds universe. The basic plot lines remain almost exactly identical and intact.
I don't want you to think that I'm having a downer on this particular book just because it's predictable, though, because I actually very much enjoyed it, even if I knew what the outcome would eventually be. There is a great deal to like and enjoy about the plot. Basically, the colonies erupt in open rebellion against their Earth-based oppressors, and the Intelligence Directorate moves its plans to subvert and destroy the Marine Corps and the Navy into full gear by setting up their own shadow equivalents to both services. The Directorate, led by Gavin Stark- who in the hands of a lesser writer would come across as a cartoon, he's so nasty- also orchestrates a plan to kidnap Admiral Augustus Garrett and keep him incommunicado, while substituting their own double for him in order to control the workings of the Navy. In the process, his closest friends and associates, particularly Terrence Compton, become deeply suspicious of what is going on, and with the help of the Martians, expose the Directorate's plot and rescue Garrett, then immediately mobilise to lend their support to the beleaguered colonials in their losing war with the military forces of the Alliance.
This book might seem a bit by-the-numbers in terms of the overall plot, but the actual writing is anything but. Allan has lost none of his skill in writing really convincing, intense battle sequences. He maintains that unusual ability to provide both the tactical and strategic pictures to the reader- you get to see the reality of war on the ground in one chapter, and in the next you understand what the outcome of that last battle happens to mean for the fate of humanity in a wider context. That's an unusual approach to take, and not an easy one to pull off, but he manages it.
I particularly like the fact that the plot of the series has by this point expanded without getting completely lost. (George R. R. Martin, sit up and take note please.) Allan introduces a number of rather nasty new villains in this book, and while some of them come across as mildly cartoonish (particularly this one Alliance governor in the book), he refrains from making the mistake of painting all Alliance soldiers as vicious butchers, and likewise refrains from pretending that all of the colonists are angels. There is a level of depth and nuance to this book that is unusual and refreshing, which is why, despite the somewhat predictable plot, I still think it's a great addition to the series.
I do wish, however, that Jay Allan or one of his associates would publish a damn star map! It would be very useful to see where all of the locales in his book are relative to each other, because without this knowledge it all becomes one big confused mass of events and places that are very difficult to separate out from each other. I've said this about the last two books in the series, and unfortunately it doesn't get any better with the next two either. I suppose Allan might fix it, someday, but until then I guess we'll have to make do with some creative imagination.
At any rate, I do still recommend this book. The minor flaws that affected the last couple of books remain in place, but the series reads very quickly and is still immensely good fun, so I really don't have much to say other than this: if you like good hard military sci-fi, you owe it to yourself to check out this guy's books, especially considering how incredibly cheap they are on Amazon.com.
Didact's Verdict: 3.8/5, a predictable plot weighs down an otherwise excellent bit of writing. Not to worry, though, the next book puts things squarely back on track.
Buy A Little Rebellion here.