Short works

Books : reviews

Mike Shepherd.
The First Casualty.
Ace. 1999

Four soldiers. One war.

Asteroid miner Mary Rodrigo and freighter owner Mattim Abeeb are green draftees of the Society of Humanity, forced to fight for Earth—a planet they’ve never even seen.

Major Ray Longkmfe and his lover. Senior Pilot Rita Nuu, are career soldiers, invested with the cause of the Unity Party—and its ambitious new president.

These four soldiers on opposing sides of the battle are about to discover the true nature of this terrible war: a quest for profit—from the high command of both sides. What they will risk is nothing less than their lives. For although truth may be the first casualty of war, it’s not going to be the last…

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2004

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 20 July 2006

Ensign Kris Longknife is the daughter of a powerful ruling family, who has joined the space navy to escape from them. But soon she finds herself caught up in military problems, political problems, and assassination attempts, and she finds herself buying into the naval ethos. Her upbringing, and the ghosts of her past, have helped mould her more than she cares to admit, which leads her into having to make a dreadful decision.

A good page turner as we watch Kris grow into being an officer, leading assault teams, pulling a despondent crew into shape, and rescuing beleaguered farmers. The political interludes back home break up the action, and don't ring so true, but are all part of setting the scene for the rest of the series.

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2004

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 12 August 2006

Junior Lieutenant Kris Longknife has a boring ship duty, but a suggestion on how to fix an engineering problem puts the ship in dock for a few weeks, giving her time to visit the family she joined the Navy to escape. So when a cry for help comes from her friend and fellow officer Tommy, she rushes off to his aid, despite knowing that it is a trap for her. Accompanying her are her bodyguard Jack, and her new maid Abby, who has a rather eclectic skill-set.

This is another romp-fest, as Kris powers forward, keeping the bad guys off balance with her momentum. Less on the military side of life here, and more on the political infighting (with real guns), as she meets up with an old foe. This particular episode is wrapped up cleanly, but new plot threads have been started off, presumably for inclusion in future episodes.

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2005

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 27 August 2006

Lieutenant Kris Longknife is arrested and charged with misappropriating funds on her first mission. Relieved of command, she is asked by her greatgrandfather, King Ray, to go on a diplomatic mission. That turns out to be rather more exciting than has been assumed, but she tackles it in her usual style. And she returns to a planet stripped of its space fleet. When six unidentified battleships demand surrender, she has just three days to whip together a defence fleet from any space-going craft that she can find.

More non-stop slam-bang excitement, with a much greater military component than the previous book, as we see the detailed logistics of bringing together a disparate bunch of people to form a stop-gap navy, and embarking on an essentially suicide mission. And there is a price to pay, of course.

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2006

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 12 November 2006

Lieutenant Kris Longknife is given command of Naval District 41, a space station around the backwater planet of Chance. It's been given to her to keep her somewhere out of the way, but at least it's an independent command. And this being Kris Longknife, it's not long before trouble finds her, and she finds herself in yet another hopeless battle with a ragtag fleet against overwhelming odds. But again, as usual, she manages to inspire loyalty and commitment from those around her to help her in her fight. And this time, the odds are a lot higher than anyone back home has realised.

No surprises that her ultimate victory isn't going to make life any easier for her.

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2007

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 11 November 2007

Lt Kris Longknife has been sent to the idyllic world of New Eden, to keep her out of trouble. But New Eden hides a dark secret under its utopian facade, and soon Kris finds herself up to her neck in assassination attempts, and even a planetary coup. And which side is she supposed to be on?

This starts slap in the middle of an assassination attempt, and the pace rarely lets up as Kris discovers the unpleasant truth about New Eden, and we discover more about the background of her maid Abby. Again, Kris wins through, and again, there is a high price to pay.

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2008

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 2 February 2009

Lt Kris Longknife aboard the warship Wasp is with a bunch of scientists exploring the new fuzzy jump points, but is also hunting pirates. Naturally, they find some pirates, which leads to a short space battle, and then, in Kris' inimitable way, a protracted land battle, all before her troubles really start.

This has a slightly less frenetic pace than usual, possibly because there's a lot of slogging through swamps, but it has all the action one has come to expect of a Longknife. It lets us see Kris fighting a different kind of battle, rather more lo-tech than she is used to (although with help from the odd nanite, and Nellie, to keep the plot moving along). And there's lots of juicy plot developments ready to come back and haunt her at a later date.

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2009

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 9 February 2010

Lt Kris Longknife, still aboard the warship Wasp, encounters an Iteeche Death Ball. But they don't want to fight, they want to talk. So Kris finds herself playing diplomat to humanity's long-term enemies, whilst having to cope with an over-protective computer, and, along the way, solve a political crisis between a bunch of cowboys and industrialists, which puts her in more danger than she's been in before.

Another fun page-turner, with slightly less action, and more diplomacy, as we discover things in the universe are even more complicated than we had been led to believe.

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2010

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 10 November 2010

Lt Cmdr Kris Longknife survived the last attempt on her life, but hasn't precisely recovered from it, when she's off hunting pirates and bringing famine relief to beleaguered planets. She has to oust some nasty pirate bosses without making the Wardhavens think she is annexing their planets. And then the pirate slavers abduct one of her crew. But Kris discovers that her increased rank brings increased responsibility, and she can't just lead from the front, all guns blazing, any more.

More space battles, land battles, and political intriguing. Good fun, but I'm beginning to wonder if it's not the Greenfelds that are the clear and present danger, but those snarky computers...

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2011

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 2 January 2012

Now she's gone and done it!

Lt Cmdr Kris Longknife goes off on a mission to investigate the strange disappearances of Iteeche scout ships. She does it in an unconventional manner, by going off in the opposite direction. Nevertheless, she finds it, and things will never be the same again.

More fun space battles, strange alien motivations, and a whopping great plot development.

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2012

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 9 April 2013

Lt Cmdr Kris Longknife is wanted for crimes against humanity on over 100 planets. To keep her out of trouble, she has been exiled to a bogus command on a remote planet. But when she discovers that her Grandfather Al is acting out of character, and may be plunging all of humanity into terrible danger, she has to act. Of course. But her attempts to investigate result in her ending up on trial for her life, facing the death penalty. She needs to clear her name before she can save the world.

Some fun chasing about, on a more planetary scale than the last book, with some interesting (if impractical) pointers on how to evade surveillance.

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2013

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 16 December 2013

Kris Longknife is back in the good graces of the brass—and to demonstrate that, they’ve promoted her to commodore. Now her mission is to find the home base of the aliens who are plaguing the fringes of the galaxy.

But no mission is ever simple when your name is Longknife. And this time the complications range from the military to the personal, as Kris finds herself—reluctantly—having to make some command decisions about her future…

Kris Longknife has taken it upon herself, and the rest of humanity, to protect a planet and its indigenous sentients from the mysterious maurading world killer fleet. Then at the end of Furious, she discovered it wasn’t just indigenous natives she was protecting. That discovery has made waves back in human space, and Kris finds herself promoted, and placed in charge of the planetary defence. But she can’t quite figure out if the promotion is meant to give her the power she needs, or just the power to fail convincingly…

The plot progresses in several interesting directions, as Kris meets aliens, fights other aliens, tries to find out more about aliens, and has to cope with aspects of her personal life. The bird-aliens are interesting: I want to see a lot more of them. There are hints at great diversity between different groups, but not enough actual observation to back this up. Here’s waiting for the next morsel!

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2014

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 16 December 2014

There’s no rest for a Longknife—even if you’re a newlywed. Vice Admiral Kris Longknife’s honeymoon gets cancelled when she hears that the space raiders’ home world may have been discovered. Finding where the raiders came from could be the key to saving humanity. If only uncovering their secrets were that easy...

As Kris returns home, she ends up tangling with a mutinous crew determined to take off alone. The dissident group leads Kris straight into a new mess—a system filled with strange, deadly enemies poised to wipe another sentient civilization out of existence. Kris and her squadron are ready to prevent total annihilation, but the mutineers have other plans…

Kris Longknife is rather overworked as the local boss of everything: commander of the Alwa Navy, SEO of Nuu Enterprises, Viceroy of the local humans, and Ambassador to the Alwa bird-aliens. So she goes off on a spot of alien-homeworld hunting.

This is another rip-roaring instalment as the team discover many alien civilisations, most extinct, but one in dire need of protection from the planet-sterilising enemy. They also have to deal with mutineers, as some of the merchant ship crews aren't happy to find the trip to Alwa is strictly one-way. Kris deals with it all with her usual aplomb, sarcasm, and head-cracking; although the space battles are getting positively Weberian in scale, Honor she is not (and Nelly is no treecat, either).

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2015

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 10 December 2015

The aliens attacking the planetary system of Alwa are an enemy unlike any Admiral Kris Longknife has ever encountered before. She doesn’t know who they are, only that they worship a being known as the Enlightened One and are unafraid to sacrifice themselves against her fleet.

But Kris faces more than just the fanatical behavior of an alien armada. A saboteur has infiltrated the military’s medical facility and unleashed an epidemic that has spread throughout the fleet without warning. Seventy-two career military women are down with something not even the aliens could do to them—including Admiral Kris Longknife…

Admiral Kris Longknife is up to her neck in trouble. The genocidal aliens have discovered the location of Alwa, and are intent on sterilising it. And they are ganging together to do so. On top of that, a disgruntled human has sabotaged the Navy’s contraceptives. Oops.

This doesn’t move the plot forward much. There is an initial big battle, a bunch of pregnancies, and the final humongous battle. The plot device to get Kris pregnant is totally underused (although it is good to see a book that acknowledges the possibility of abortion); and the killing of 200 billion aliens, no matter how genocidal they are, seems a tad too glib. Kris herself sums up her problem: as an Admiral, she’s no longer allowed any fun, by which she means go out and blow things up (other than in big set piece battles). The resolution hints at more potential ‘fun’ in the next book, however.

Mike Shepherd.
Ace. 2016

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 5 January 2017

Despite her role as a fleet admiral and protector of a planetary system, Kris is still beholden to her great-grandfather King Raymond’s commands. She has been personally selected for a mission that, should she succeed, will save millions of lives.

The Greenfeld Empire is in the midst of civil war. On one side is the tyrannical Empress; on the other is the last person Kris ever wants to see again—Grand Duchess Vicky Peterwald. Due to their shared history, the Emperor believes Kris can mediate between the factions and bring about peace.

But before Kns even begins her mission, she survives multiple assassination attempts on her home world. Someone doesn’t want her interfering in the Empire’s affairs. Kris immediately suspects Vicky or the Empress, only to learn that it could also be a traitor among her own people…

Kris Longknife is back home, recalled by her grandfather King Raymond. Having successfully held off billions of genocidal aliens, she is now given a task that even she may find impossible: to stop a civil war in the Greenfeld Empire brewing between Vicky Peterwald and her father the Emperor.

There is the usual helping of mayhem, as Kris is subject to assassination attempts, without any of her standard crew other than her husband Jack to help. However, Kris also has to exercise diplomacy, which is a somewhat new game for her. Everything ends rather too easily, as the baddies are too stupid for their own good. However, it's good to see Kris operating in a new mode: diplomat rather than soldier.

Mike Shepherd.
KL&MM. 2017

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 1 May 2018

Kris Longknife has discovered that this desk job is not at all what she expected. Being desk bound hasn’t even cut the number of assassination attempts!

Then Kris gets home to find her two kids playing with an Iteeche. Ron has come back to human space with a request. What should Kris do?

Can she finally get some straight answers from her Grampa Flay, known as King Raymond to most? Does she risk taking the kids into a situation with a whole lot of unanswered questions? What could go wrong?

Kris knows something will go wrong. Something always goes wrong.

Kris Longknife has been behind a desk for the last five years. That job may be even more stressful than fighting billions of genocidal aliens. So when her Iteeche friend Ron arrives with an invitation from his Emperor to Kris to be the first ever official human emissary to the Iteeche Empire, she is tempted. And her Grandfather, King Raymond, decides for various reasons it would be good to get her out of the political firing lines. But by the time she has fought an Iteeche fleet sent to ambush her, Kris is beginning to wonder how diplomatic this mission really is…

The previous Kris Longknife books were published by Ace. This is the first in the new self-published line, but it’s the same old Kris, with the same cover artist, and just a few more typos.

This is clearly the set-up for the next phase of Kris’ life: she accepts a new job, spends a while assembling a huge team – definitely no Gerry Anderson school of staffing levels here – fights her way to the Iteeche Empire’s head planet, fights her way across the planet to the Emperor, and gets handed the real new job. Despite the plot being quite linear, this is very readable. We’ll have to wait for the next instalment to see how the job pans out.

Mike Shepherd.
KL&MM. 2017

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 12 May 2018

Admiral Kris Longknife should have known the job offer was too good. Really, she knew by now that what was too good to be true really, really isn’t. Still, she jumped at the chance to be the first human emissary to the Iteeche Empire.

Only when she got there, and met the Emperor, a teenage kid small on his throne, did Kris find out that there was a little civil war going on in the Iteeche Empire. The loyal forces were losing, and they needed the best fighting admiral they could get. So they sent for Kris Longknife!

Now Kris is sweating out collecting a fighting force – that won’t make her their first target. Now she’s trying to figure out how to fight ships identical to hers, that outnumber her four to one or worse. Oh, and she’s got to keep the merchant princes in her embassy from making a mess of everything.

A whole lot of people are hoping this Longknife can pull a grizzly bear out of her hat. A whole lot of other Iteeche are hoping the bear takes off her arm.

This picks up where Emissary leaves off. After fighting her way into the Iteeche Emperor’s presence, she is handed the real job: Grand Admiral of the loyal Iteeche space fleet, in charge of protecting the Empire from other Iteeche in the current bloody civil war. All she has to do is negotiate fractured Iteeche politics, train a fighting fleet of reluctant Iteeche personnel, discern alien friend from alien foe, keep the human ambassadors and merchants from losing thier heads (literally), and protect her children from dying along with a billion Iteeche on the home planet if they lose the war. So, all in a day’s work for a Longknife, then.

The first half here is Kris trying to understand enough about the Iteeche to get a fleet assembled: although the Iteeche technically owe allegiance to their Emperor, they belong to fiercely independent clans, and many are not willing to deal with a hated human, and many are actually on the other side of the civil war. There’s also the problem of training them: the proud warriors would rather die like Iteeche than fight like humans. Kris also has to deal with her human delegation: the merchants came to trade, and now discover that not only are Iteeche merchants the lowest of the low, but they are caught up in incomprehensible customs. And we get an inside look at some very strange Iteeche data processing algorithms. The second half of the book is a battle of Weberian proportion and detail. But before we get there, Nelly the computer has a lot of fun building and rebuilding a palace of Smart Metal for Kris.

So, Kris has won the first battle; can she win the war? Will we get to see the boy Emperor? Will Kris provoke a diplomatic incident? Will people stop trying to kill her? We’ll just have to wait for the next instalment.

Mike Shepherd.
KL&MM. 2018

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 12 July 2018

Grand Admiral, Her Royal Highness Kris Longknife is up to her ears in problems … again.

While summoned to the Imperial Iteeche Court to be humanity’s Emissary, it turns out that what the Iteeche really want is a fighting admiral!

You see, they’ve got this huge civil war going, and the Imperial side isn’t doing so well. Kris now has command of the entire Imperial Combined Fleet. Sort of.

The Iteeche Empire has a ten-thousand-year long history. There is nothing that won’t say, “We’ve always done it that way,” pointing to a track record lasting for thousands of years. Even when Kris reminds them they’re losing, many have a hard time changing.

Many Iteeche also wonder if letting a human win this war for them isn’t losing everything already.

Kris managed to win a defensive battle with a scratch force. Now she’s thrown together a larger force and is ready to take the fight to the rebels.

It’s full speed ahead with Kris Longknife: Commanding!

Admiral Kris Longknife has been on the defensive ever since entering the Iteeche Empire: fighting to get to an Imperial audience, then fighting off an attack by the rebels. Now she decides to take the initiative, and take the war to the enemy. Not in the Iteeche way, though: in the Longknife way.

We get a couple more space battles, but the main interest here is seeing life down on an Iteeche planet, away from the ruling castes. Kris is horrified by some of the Iteeche traditions when a planet is conquered, and instead has her own, somewhat less genocidal, way of imposing order. Kris’ way is bound to set up even more problems for the Iteeche rulers in the future, which I look forward to seeing.

Mike Shepherd.
KL&MM. 2019

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 27 December 2019

Grand Admiral, Her Royal Highness Kris Longknife, commander of the Iteeche Imperial Combined Fleets has the enemy on the run. Literally. The last time she entered a rebel system, every disloyal ship picked up its skirts and ran.

So why has she been ordered, as in requested and required, to make a formal report to the Emperor? Ron the Iteeche and his two young Iteeche Counselors have little to say on the subject except that some Iteeche think Kris is winning too much, too fast.

What human combat commander has ever heard those words?

Worse, when Kris returns to the capital, no one wants to sell her a ticket on the space elevator. Driving the streets is dangerous … not two roadside bombs but three detonate! Now she’s got her embassy in sight and she can’t get in!

What kind of games are the clan lords playing? What threats are being hatched against the young Emperor? Even more pressing, how does Kris get back into her embassy and back to her kids?

The Iteeche Empire claims it has a ten-thousand-year history and traditions for every possible situation. However, they’ve never run into Kris Longknife: Indomitable.

Grand Admiral Kris Longknife has been doing what the Iteeche asked her to do: winning their civil war for them. But she discovers, the Iteeche often have civil wars, and they have protocols for fighting them, and Kris is doing something different: she is winning too fast! So, she is called back to the home planet, ostensibly for her to report her progress to the Emperor, but actually to slow her down. But slowing down a Longknife is no trivial matter.

Even her allies are fighting her, and she can’t fight back full throttle, as she is in the capital city, surrounded by a billion innocent civilians. Nevertheless, Kris ploughs through the aliens again. There’s maybe a little too much glee in showing off the myriad uses of Smart Metal if you have a superfast sentient snarky computer controlling it, but there are some real problems, and inventive solutions, at hand (although why the rescuers at one point didn’t try to go in from underneath, I’m not sure…). Although there are a few guns left hanging on walls unfired by the end (only the metaphorical ones, though!), there is a sort of conclusion to this part of Kris’ tale, potentially allowing for a pause. But I hope there are more stories to come.

Mike Shepherd.
KL&MM. 2019

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 29 April 2020

The Iteeche who hauled Grand Admiral Kris Longknife back to the Capital and interrupted her campaign against the rebels, are dead. Very dead. Their clans are disgraced and their palaces in ruin.

With Kris away, the rebels retook Arteccia, a planet she had recently captured. And they plan to take back more.

The Clan Chiefs expect Kris to restore Arteccia for the loyalists because that is the Iteeche Way. When Kris will not dance to their tune, the Clan Chiefs play their ace: Do what we want, or we won’t give you command of our ships.

To their consternation, Kris gives them a literal middle digit salute and invites every minor clan to join the fun and games of capturing planets and gaining plunder.

Unfortunately, the rebels have used their time well and they have their own plans for Kris – plans that will leave her fleet in ruins and the young Iteeche on the throne dead.

Kris Longknife continues to cut swathes through the Iteeche Empire. If it’s not arranging a kids swimming party at the Emeperor’s Palace, its wrestling with Imperial politics, or waging civil war in a most un-Iteeche like manner. Her habit of not immediately executing saboteurs, but working her way up their chain of command to hook bigger fish, is definitely causing waves amongst the top ranks.

More of the same fast paced action, although given the number of books we’ve had set in the Iteeche Empire, I’m surprised she isn’t Emperor yet…

Mike Shepherd.
Longknifes Defend the Legation.
KL&MM. 2020

Grand Admiral Kris Longknife is rampaging across the stars, kicking butt and taking planets away from the Iteeche rebels. She asked her grandparents, Gramma and Grampa Trouble, to come and keep Little Ruth and Johnny company while she is gone.

Meanwhile, back on the Iteeche Imperial Capitol planet, intrigue and power plays continue. The Human Embassy once more comes under siege. This time, however, the entire Legation District, all thirty-six blocks and three million Iteeche must be protected.

With grandparents busy, the kids are left on their own. Sneaky parents should not be surprised to discover that their kids are just as sly as they are. Before too long, Little Ruth and Johnny, along with thirty of their Human and Iteeche friends, are in way over their heads.

Can Little Ruth keep her friends alive long enough for Gramma Trouble to race to their rescue. Can Ruth, not yet eight, learn the hard lesson of being a Longknife?

This great parallel story to Kris Longknife Stalwart shows just what measures need to be taken to keep the home fires burning, because –

Longknifes do what they have to do … no matter the cost.

Mike Shepherd.
Kris Lonhknife's Maid Goes on Strike ad other short stories.
KL&MM. 2017

For the first time in print, we have a collection of Kris Longknife short stories!

Expanded from the eBook version. In addition, there are short comments from Mike Shepherd before each story, explaining where the story came from and why it was created.

A wonderful collection of short stories for the Kris Longknife collector!


Kris Longknife's Maid Goes on Strike. 2017
Ruth Longknife's First Christmas. 2017
Kris Longknife Among the Kicking Birds. 2017
Kris Longknife's Bad Day. 2017
Kris Longknife's Bloodhound. 2017