Thursday, June 20, 2019

Book Review: The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald

The Outback Stars
Author: Sandra McDonald
Publication: Tor Books; 1st Edition edition (April 17, 2007)

Description: Lieutenant Jodenny Scott is a hero.  She has the medals and the scars to prove it.

She's cooling her heels on Kookaburra, recovering from injuries sustained during the fiery loss of her last ship, the Yangtze, and she's bored -- so bored, in fact, that she takes a berth on the next ship out.  That's a mistake.  The Aral Sea isn't anyone's idea of a get-well tour.

Jodenny's handed a division full of misfits, incompetents, and criminals.  She's a squared-away officer.  She thinks she can handle it all.  She's wrong. Aral Sea isn't a happy ship.  And it's about to get a lot unhappier.

As Aral Sea enters the Alcheringa -- the alien-constructed space warp that allows giant settler-ships to travel between worlds, away from all help or hope -- Jodenny comes face to face something powerful enough to dwarf even the unknown force that destroyed her last ship and left her with missing memories and bloody nightmares.  Lieutenant Jodenny Scott is about to be introduced to love.

Author Sandra McDonald brings her personal knowledge of the military, and of the subtle interplay between men and women on deployment, to a stirring tale that mixes ancient Australian folklore with the colonization of the stars.

My Thoughts: This space opera mixes colonization of the stars with Australian folklore. Lietenant Jodenny Scott has survived what looks like sabotage from a rebel group and finds herself taking any opportunity to get off planet and away from desk duty. However, she finds herself on a very troubled ship and in charge of a department filled with misfits and incompetents.

Sergeant Terry Myell is one of the people in her department. He was falsely accused of rape and carries that reputation. He is also being bullied by Chief Chiba who is the leader of a gang and one od the ringleaders of most of the trouble-making on the ship.

As Jodenny tries to conquer the fears that are a remainder of the loss of so many of her friends and crewmates, she is also trying to get things back in shape in her department which is the centerpiece of shipboard smuggling. She is also falling in love with Myell who returns her feelings. But falling in love across ranks in their service is very much discouraged.

I enjoyed the worldbuilding in this one once I had read enough to understand what was going on. The story tells about a new way of space travel stumbled onto by an Australian ship on their way to Mars which allows most to escape Earth which has suffered some sort of environmental catastrophe. The mysterious creators of this faster-than-light network also terraformed a number of planets and left various monuments on all of them.

After Jodenny and Myell accidentally discover that the monuments provide another way of interstellar travel - one definitely not designed for humans, they find they have involved themselves in even more mystery and intrigue. Myell's visions of an ancient Aboriginal spirit guide gives him needed information to use this new network and has him doubting his sanity.

The story was very engaging and fast-paced. I liked both Jodenny and Myell and loved their relationship. This is the first book in a trilogy but, thankfully, doesn't have a cliffhanger ending. But there are questions still to be answered.

Favorite Quote:
"Did you enjoy your stay, Lieutenant?"

Sure she did. She had enjoyed it so much she was thinking of recommending Mary River for anyone who enjoyed conspiracies, paranoia, and leaping onto mag-lev trains. Maybe they could package danger, sell it like a theme park. Throw in an unexpected journey to the other side of the universe with a handsome sergeant and they'd be sure to have a surge in customers.
I bought this one August 1, 2011. You can buy your copy here.

1 comment:

  1. I’m intrigued by the mix of Indigenous Australian folklore and space opera. I’ve never heard of this book, or author. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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