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Novel probably read in the last 15 years. It might be 5-10 years older, but I don't think so. Paperback published in USA. Pretty sure it was a series.

The story involves ships fighting in space battles. Seems it was small engagements, as opposed to large scall battles. (fighting off pirates, as opposed to a war between fleets)

The ships have flowing metal, which they can reposition as armor on their hull. (Enemy on the port side, redirect the metal to have a couple meters on the port side. or to the stern if trying to run from the enemy.) If I recall most attacks were laser or plasma type beam weapons.

Essentially the armor acts as a ablator slowly being destroyed until the armor is gone and the beam can hit the hull and penetrate it doing damage to the ship. Thus being able to flow it to patch holes burnt in the liquid metal armor was the goal.

It did not flow like mercury, it took time to move it around. So you had to plan where you wanted it when preparing for combat.

I think in later books in the series, it did become more mobile, so it would flow more quickly. (at that point maybe like the t-1000 in Terminator 2)

I believe later they also developed the capability to flow it so it did not need to be fully in contact with the hull. i.e Projecting an umbrella or fan (with the umbrella shaft touching the hull) which they could also rotate to distribute attacks (beam type weapons) over a larger surface area of the liquid metal minimizing damage.

I think they might even have used the tm symbol in the book. i.e. Smart Metal™ for whatever name they were using for the metal.

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I think that this is probably one of the installments of the Kris Longknife series by Mike Shepherd. The series starts with Mutineer (published 2004), and is up to number 19, Installment, by now, together with various spin-offs.

"Smart metal", used to shield spaceships' hulls is indeed a major component of the space battles. From the wiki:

Smart Metal is a substance invented by Nuu Industries. It can flow and reconfigure itself when instructed.

As tvtropes notes, it is more correctly referred to as:

Trade Snark: It's Smart Metal™. Even when spoken.

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    Argh, you're too fast. Here I was typing out a longer quote: "Someone put a film of Smart Metal over the regular hull, then shifts it around," Captain Drago said. "You put this where you're likely to get hit, and it ablates the laser heat."
    – DavidW
    Oct 25, 2022 at 21:11
  • Yes, that is it. I read many of the Longknife books quite a few years ago. Looks like I am going to have to catch up.
    – NJohnny
    Oct 27, 2022 at 5:50

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