Monday, February 4, 2008

The Outback Stars - Unexcusably Late First Post

This weekend, I was frightfully neglectful of my blog. I didn't answer my comments and I didn't look at other blogger's posts. I'm behind on two debuts, but I made no effort to get caught up. I have been meaning to do a "blogrolling" post to thank those who have linked this blog lately, but I didn't do that either. I have an interview to write, but I neglected that as well.

Why? Because I cannot put Sandra McDonald's novel down. I read THE OUTBACK STARS all day yesterday, with interruptions every now and then to help my daughter make Tinker Toys musical instruments and various wildlife. (We made a flute, a saxaphone, a violin, an alligator (which had a moving jaw for that all-important chomp) two fish, an aquarium and about 11 rocks for the aquarium.)

The truly sad thing is that the excellence of this novel sabotaged the coverage I usually give to debut novels. I usually put up at least three posts per book, now I won't be able to do more than two, since I'm over halfway through it. I'll have to make up for it somehow.

The cover blurb makes it sound like a science fiction romance, but I would describe it more as a suspense novel than a romance. It's an engrossing story about a young navy Lieutenant named Jodenny Scott who takes over a supply division on a huge military spaceship. One never knew that a supply officer's life was so interesting. (We referred to them as "supply weasels" in the Air Force.) The book is rife with intrigue. Jodenny's daily life -- which seems to be meeting after meeting after meeting -- is fascinating because of all the intrigue going on during all the said meetings.

One of Miz Scott's subordinates is Sergeant Terry Myell. Myell's been accused of a crime and has become a pariah on the ship. Myell also has enemies, including a big Chief named Chiba who calls himself Myell's "worst problem." To top off their respective problems -- which are legion -- Jodenny and Myell (which I keep wanting to spell "Myrell", so forgive me if any spelling errors get through) are falling for each other. The romantic suspense is terrific. They have hardly touched each other unless the situation forced it.

Both Jodenny and Myell (referred to mostly by his last name) display weaknesses. Jodenny has a display of outright cowardice early in the story (which is belied by her heroic actions on her previous assignment) and Myell is filled with distrust of both friend and foe. Neither are what one would describe as "kick-ass." They are both trying to do a good job, and they are stymied by the forces around them.

Add to this some intriguing alien artifacts. I'm a sucker for alien artifacts. One of my favorite all-time computer games was called Starflight, and it centered around alien artifacts. My husband and I played it together for hours. I also loved Arthur C. Clark's 200X and Rama series, which of course has even more artifacts. I don't read enough science fiction to know if it's overdone, but even if it is, McDonald's handling of it is terrific. She doles out just enough to make us wild with curiosity.

The best thing about this debut is the next book is out in just a few days! So I'll be able to close the one and open the other right away.

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