Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald - review

The Outback Stars


Sandra McDonald
The cover - I like the cover. It's mystical and SciFi-ish at the same time. The artwork in the background remind me of Van Gogh stars...but prettier. With the space suit there's the suggestion of hard science, and yet with the colors and swirls and even the style of the space suit, there's the suggestion of the mystical. Nice mix.

I was interested in reading this book a few years ago, but like many other books that aren't readily available in the bookstore, I ended up waiting until recently to order it online. I'm glad I finally was able to read this story...

Jodenny is a officer in the Team Space military. When Outback Stars opens, it becomes apparent that Jodenny has lived through a spaceship disaster. In the prologue she's getting ready to once again put her life on the line - this time she's pretty sure she's not going to make it...and then we're taken to Kookaburra, where she has been stationed, recuperating from her recent injuries. Jodenny is stir crazy, has been suffering from depression and has been suicidal. She pulls some strings to get assisgned to a ship, The Aral Sea. Only The Aral Sea has its own share of problems.

Jodenny is assigned to the worst department of the ship - so her tour of duty isn't going to be quite like she planned. Instead she is dealing with an inefficient department, sullen crew, a crew member who has been charged with raped recently and though cleared is still being harrassed; this crew member has also been contemplating going AWOL; the little robots in the department have been malfunctioning, inventory is off, sinister things are going on just under the surface and she's still having a few flashbacks of her previous ship's disaster.

Jodenny and a crew member become involved in trying to find out what's really going on behind the scenes in their department and end up together on planet, going through some weird events and later are in a lot of danger together. There is a log going on in this story, and I found the complete novel pretty interesting, the character interaction interesting and the relationhips between characters believable. While there were a few characters that you just knew were up to no good, there were a few others that had me guessing, or changing my mind a few times about them.

There is an interesting mix of Australian Aboriginal mythology and science fiction weaved together in the storyline. Seems the crew member that's been having problems - Terry Myell has some sort of aboriginal ancestry, and he's going through a kind of "fork in the road" or decision that he has to make...At the same time Myell and Jodenny are fighting an attraction to each other that they're not so sure of, because it's so taboo between officers and "regulars" that they don't even speak of it for a very long time.

I enjoyed the mix of futuristic Science Fiction and mythology - enough that I want to read other books written by Sandra McDonald. I've found out that there are two other books by Sandra McDonald that feature Jodenny and Terry Myell, so eventually I'll read them. In the meantime, I enjoyed this mix of genres, characters and plots.

Other books in this series:
The Stars Down Under
The Stars Blue Yonder

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