TRADING IN DANGER
Vatta’s War Book One
In honor of Women’s Empowerment Month I’d like to introduce you to Kylara Vatta the protagonist in TRADING IN DANGER the first of seven books in the Vatta’s War series.
In case you didn’t know I have a thing for kick-ass women. I also have a thing for space operas. This book combines two of my favorite things. Thank you, Elizabeth Moon.
Kylara Vatta is a cadet at the spaceforce academy on her home world Slotter Key when she is forced to resign in disgrace her final year. A fellow cadet had tricked her into helping him and this caused a major embarrassment for the academy. Her father is the CFO of Vatta Transport Ltd. – a large and respected space shipping company. Hoping to get her away from the public attention over her resignation her father gives her command of an old, decrepit freighter named the GLENNYS JONES on its final journey before being scrapped. While at the Belinta Colony she takes on some new crew and learns that a badly needed shipment of agricultural equipment never arrived and a sizable payment is waiting for anyone who can deliver the goods from the Sabine system. Wanting to keep the GLENNYS JONES from being scrapped, and having something to prove to herself, Ky diverges from her original mission in order to raise enough capitol to refit and save the ship.
However, her engine breaks down and strands her at the planet Sabine until such time as she can raise the money to make repairs. The problem is that the two planets in that star system are headed towards war. Ky is just about to call home to ask for help when the ansibles (see below for definition) are destroyed and mercenary warships appear in the system. Ky’s ship is boarded and she gets very badly hurt when a young crewman whom she had taken on at Belinta attacks the mercenaries. She almost dies but thanks to the mercenaries she recovers. The mercenaries have taken hostage the crews from other merchant ships in the system. Because her ship cannot function she is “hired” to take the hostages onto her ship and keep them safe for ten days. Those become the longest ten days of her life.
The conditions on her ship become strained. The passengers outnumber the crew and the ship isn’t built to take the strain. It is also a cargo ship with no extra quarters so the passengers have to be stowed in the cargo hold. Ky manages to keep everything okay but then the captains and their senior officers mutiny and try to take over the ship in the process gaining control over important ship functions. Ky has a face off with them and kills the leaders – but in the process her cargo master and close friend Gary Tubai is killed. The ship is now off-course, the communications don’t work, and the ship’s emergency identification beacon has been sabotaged – and all this has something to do with piracy and the destruction of the ansibles.
By the time help finally arrives they are in dire straights and facing starvation. Ky figures out a way to send a signal and the mercenaries – who are now cooperating with the InterStellar Communications the ansibles company – find and rescue them. Back on Sabine she is confronted by Captain Furman – the chief captain in Vatta Transport Ltd. He scolds her and treats her as if she was a child and orders her to scrap her ship and return home with him. She refuses and gets funds to repair her ship from InterStellar Communications – who are grateful to her for the information she gave them about the pirates. Because of the sabotage of the identification beacon she is forced to re-register the ship under a new name. She then choses to call it the GARY TOBAI after her friend who gave his life. That was a nice touch. Ky and her ship return to Belinta with their cargo, all promises are kept, all contracts fulfilled, and our hero manages to come out ahead.
ANSIBLE: A fictional device or technology capable of near-instantaneous or faster than light communication. It can send and receive messages to and from anywhere over any distance without delay – even between star systems. The word “ansible” was created by author Ursula K. Le Guin in 1966. Since then the word has been used by a variety of authors in various works. The word itself derives from answerable.
What’s wrong, if anything, with this novel? Well, it’s a simple story. It’s not loaded with action. There are no space battles. The fates of worlds are not hanging in the balance. Civilization is not on the brink of collapse. It’s a simple story about a not-so simple woman who through no fault of her own finds herself in a mess and manages to extricate herself using brains and talent. Now I don’t think there is anything wrong with that and I have no trouble reading that kind of story. But if what you’re looking for is some kind of epic space opera like a Star Wars or Star Trek movie then you’re going to be disappointed.
What’s right? Elizabeth Moon managed to transport me into her continuity and for whatever time I was reading I was oblivious to the real world. This is exactly what I ask of a book. Ms. Moon created a real world and real characters with real situations and I lost myself there. I love Kylara Vatta and I loved sharing this adventure with her. Each chapter felt like a gourmet meal that I was able to savor. I’m giving this book five gray geeks without reservation.
Unfortunately this now means I am going to have to get the rest of the books in this series and read them. The reason why it is unfortunate is that there are six more novels. That is a lot of hard earned shekels to dish out. I’m going to have to write a letter to Elizabeth Moon and complain. Nah, just kidding. This book was worth every dime and I wholeheartedly recommend you pick up a copy and see for yourself. You will not be disappointed.