Star Nomad by Lindsay Buroker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Disclosure: I received a free review copy from the author.
I've been a fan of Lindsay Buroker's fantasy novels for some time now, and happily followed her into this new space opera series, because I've found her work consistently entertaining. Also, though I haven't read as much of it lately, I'm a space opera fan from of old, having grown up on Andre Norton and loved Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books.
Norton, Bujold, and C.L. Moore's Northwest Smith are in the lineage of this series, not to mention a little bit of Star Wars, though without the hokey ancient religion or laser swords. We have asteroid miners, the aftermath of a civil war (Alliance versus Empire), artificial gravity, various kinds of weapons including energy weapons, enhanced cyborg soldiers, power armour... it's all good stuff. We also have an ex-military officer with an old spaceship and a ragtag crew, just trying to make it back to where her young daughter is so they can be together (her husband was a civilian casualty of the war), and encountering - and overcoming - obstacles at every turn.
The characters are quirky, smart, brave, principled and constantly bickering, which is what I've come to happily expect from a Buroker book. The cyborg soldier distinctly reminds me of the assassin Sicarius from the Emperor's Edge series: emotionally closed off, laconic to the point of curt, unstoppably deadly, but with his own powerful set of principles. The space captain is, however, more assured and capable than Amaranthe early in the same series, and none the worse for it. She makes a great scrappy underdog, badly outgunned but forced by circumstances to forge difficult alliances and triumph through courage and intelligence, and that's how I like my heroes.
The political background is well, if briefly, handled. The Empire was totalitarian and repressive, and the Alliance fought long and hard to break it; since the viewpoint character was an Alliance officer, we mostly get that perspective, but the cyborg, who was an Imperial officer, gets to say his piece about how the Empire maintained order, and now everything is falling apart and pirates and warlords are causing chaos and suffering. Though it isn't dwelled on, it's a more sophisticated political background than a lot of light SFF has - and gives us a chance to encounter plenty of pirates and warlords.
I understand that this is the first of a series, and that the other books will be launching very soon after this one. I will definitely be picking them up.
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