Trading in Danger: Appealing space opera

science fiction book reviews Elizabeth Moon Vatta's War 1. Trading in Danger 2. Marque and Reprisal 3. Engaging the Enemy 4. Command Decision 5. Victory Conditions science fiction book reviews Trading in Danger by Elizabeth MoonTrading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon

“Of course we didn’t do autopsies. We know exactly what killed them — I killed them!”

Kylara Vatta, daughter of the head of the most prestigious shipping empire in the universe, didn’t want to follow in her family’s footsteps — trading is boring and Ky wants adventure and her own life outside of her family’s control. So she opted for a military career. But with only a few months left in the officer’s academy, she was set-up, betrayed, kicked out, and publicly shamed. When she returns home in disgrace, Vatta Transport is happy to have her back in the fold. Her first assignment is to captain a derelict spaceship straight to the junkyard, but Ky has Vatta blood in her veins and can’t pass up an advantageous business opportunity that arises unexpectedly. When this leads her into various forms of danger, and when scammers and mutineers think they can take advantage of the young and inexperienced captain, Ky finds that her time spent in the military academy wasn’t wasted after all.

Trading in Danger is the first installment of Elizabeth Moon’s VATTA’S WAR military science fiction epic. I don’t think this series will appeal to everybody, but it happened to hit a sweet spot for me. I like Kylara Vatta, an intelligent ethical rules-bound military officer with a soft heart who, due to her new circumstances, is beginning to discover that she has a rebellious streak, not to mention a disconcerting appreciation for quickly solving problems with violence. Ky is a little passive and occasionally bewildered in this installment, but this is her first adventure. I’m assuming that Moon plans to show us some growth in this area as Ky begins to adapt to her new lifestyle. Kylara’s crew and family members are also likeable — especially elderly Aunt Grace who bakes unappetizing but invaluable fruitcakes.

The plot is engaging, unpredictable and mostly quick-moving though some of the dialog gets repetitive as Ky explains what’s going on to multiple characters who show up at different times. I enjoyed the focus on transportation, though this may be a personal thing. My husband runs a small freight logistics company, so there’s a lot of talk about contracts, cargo, carriers and consignees in my little world, and I was fascinated by how this might scale up to apply to an entire universe. Surprisingly, this was one of my favorite aspects of the story but, again, that’s just me. (It would be such an awful pun to say “your mileage may vary” so I won’t.)

Trading in Danger is “soft” science fiction, or “space opera” — it’s a little fluffy, focusing on drama and political intrigue, not physics. There’s talk about FTL drives and ansibles (there’s a nod to Ursula K. LeGuin), but no explanation of how they work. I love physics but have to admit that I get bored by long dry theoretical or technical discussions of astrophysics and quantum mechanics. Trading in Danger is a quick and easy read for when you’re in the mood for some non-challenging science fiction. It ends on an intriguing note — Ky has some difficult choices to make about her relationship to her family business. Should she stay with Vatta or go rogue? Whatever, I’m still on board and ready for the ride.

I’m listening to VATTA’S WAR in audio format. These were produced in 2008 by Tantor Audio and are read by Cynthia Holloway who does a nice job. I like her voice and she inflects the narrative perfectly (though she always mispronounces the word “peripheral”). I recommend the audio version.

Kylara Vatta is the only daughter in a family full of sons, and her father’s only child to buck tradition by choosing a military career instead of joining the family business. For Ky, it’s no contest: Even running the prestigious Vatta Transport Ltd. shipping concern can’t hold a candle to shipping out as an officer aboard an interstellar cruiser. It’s adventure, not commerce, that stirs her soul. And despite her family’s misgivings, there can be no doubt that a Vatta in the service will prove a valuable asset. But with a single error in judgment, it all comes crumbling down. Expelled from the Academy in disgrace – and returning home to her humiliated family, a storm of high-profile media coverage, and the gaping void of her own future – Ky is ready to face the inevitable onslaught of anger, disappointment, even pity. But soon after opportunity’s door slams shut, Ky finds herself with a ticket to ride – and a shot at redemption–as captain of a Vatta Transport ship. It’s a simple assignment: escorting one of the Vatta fleet’s oldest ships on its final voyage… to the scrapyard. But keeping it simple has never been Ky’s style. And even though her father has provided a crew of seasoned veterans to baby-sit the fledgling captain on her maiden milk run, they can’t stop Ky from turning the routine mission into a risky venture – in the name of turning a profit for Vatta Transport, of course. By snapping up a lucrative delivery contract defaulted on by a rival company, and using part of the proceeds to upgrade her condemned vehicle, Ky aims to prove she’s got more going for her than just her family’s famous name. But business will soon have to take a backseat to bravery, when Ky’s change of plans sails her and the crew straight into the middle of a colonial war. For all her commercial savvy, it’s her military training and born-soldier’s instincts that Ky will need to call on in the face of deadly combat, dangerous mercenaries, and violent mutiny…

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KAT HOOPER is a professor at the University of North Florida where she teaches neuroscience, psychology, and research methods courses. She occasionally gets paid to review scientific textbooks, but reviewing speculative fiction is much more fun. Kat lives with her husband and their children in Jacksonville Florida.

View all posts by Kat Hooper

2 comments

  1. Kat,thanks for the review. This sounds fun! I think people who like the Vorkosigan Sage might like these.

  2. Kat,thanks for the review. This sounds fun! I think people who like the Vorkosigan Saga might like these.

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