Amidst an intergalactic war, alpine warrior Lt. Cynthia Scott battles aliens on the frigid planet of Ostark.
An unexpected alien invasion commences just as Scott, a stunner with West Point and Cambridge degrees, completes special ops training. The X-Chri, whose bloodlust drives them to butcher their human enemies, have overrun several of Ostark's cities, killing Cynthia's fiancé in the process. The humans retreat to a safe zone protected by powerful surface-to-air weapons that keep the alien ships at bay, and the battle for Ostark devolves into a scattered ground war of ambushes and ski chases. Cynthia is paired with Maj. Jim Harkins, 21 years her senior, and the two quickly distinguish themselves on the battlefield. One mission follows another, and in the course of hunting and fleeing the aliens, Cynthia and Jim become intimate. Harrigan's rendering of this futuristic world is a mixed bag. The author takes pains to describe the workings of nanosuits and plasma projectors, but never adequately explains why exactly the X-Chri are fighting the humans. The X-Chri are portrayed as tribal and totalitarian; battlefield honor is their race's sole virtue. In short, the struggle could not be more Manichaean. Still, the action keeps these quibbles at bay while the two soldiers remain on Ostark. But once they pursue the alien clan leader to another planet, Cynthia's increasing powers stretch reality, even the invented reality of the 23rd century. Eventually, she becomes the first human to win a computer's love, and together, they crack the futuristic equivalent of Fermat's Last Theorem–also, she forges a telepathic bond with the X-Chri leader, another first for humankind.
A briskly plotted, exhilarating adventure that will test even the most carefree reader's suspension of disbelief.