Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Trading in Danger

Book One of Vatta's War

by Elizabeth Moon


Trading in Danger is another military space opera, similar in some ways to the author's Serrano Legacy series. Ky Vatta is a model cadet with excellent grades, but apparently a poor judge of character. Before her career in the military has even begun she is forced to resign, thanks to a thoughtless and seemingly inconsequential act that resulted in a scandal.

Ky returns to her family, upset by the disgrace of her dismissal, intending to ride out the media storm. Fortunately for Ky, her family are rich traders, and the family firm, Vatta Transport, is respected throughout the galaxy for being reliable, punctual and solvent. Ky is given the captaincy of an old ship and sent on a simple mission to take it to scrap.

Not one to let a ship go to waste, our heroine has other ideas. She decides to try to raise the money to fix the Glennys Jones. But her new course takes her away from the safe route her father had planned for her, and into a war zone.

It's pretty much a given in a book like this that Ky will eventually use some of that military training of hers. However violence does not dominate this book. There is more trading and less danger than you might expect, and at points it even gets quite bureaucratic. Even in space there are contracts to sign, legal formalities to consider, and money worries. It's details such as this, and Ky's distaste for her aunt's fruitcake, that give Trading in Danger a realism that most space opera lacks.

This down-to-earth atmosphere affects the suspense and slows the pace of this book a little, although it does make for a more believable plot.

Most of the story is told through the eyes of Ky Vatta, but to an extent she is an enigma. Is she too naive and trusting? The answer to that doesn't become clear until later on. It's easy to view her as an over-protected rich girl. Undoubtably certain things do fall into her lap, and she gets privileged treatment as a result of her family name. Yet she is a character with quiet determination and human doubts, and it's easy to sympathise with her. Nevertheless, Ky Vatta isn't amongst the most fascinating of heroines.

Likewise Trading in Danger is a good all-round read, but it lacks a certain something that would make it great. Many of the characters are quite subtle, apart from Captain Kristoffson and Captain Furman, and the crew of the Glennys Jones are almost indistinguishable from one another. The book sustains interest, but isn't quite pacy or sensational enough for escapist space opera, nor is it bursting with enough new ideas to mark it out as must-read conceptual science fiction. This is a moderately involving, but quite traditional, space adventure.

Book Details

Year: 2003

Categories: Books

  Science fiction
    Female Protagonist  

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Elizabeth Moon