(Cover art by Steve Stone, design by Sean Garrehy)
How have I gone this long without hearing about Elizabeth Moon? First of all, Elizabeth Moon is an amazing name, and secondly, she has been writing almost exactly the types of book I love to read for almost as long as I have been alive. I can only cite the “so many books, so little time” argument to defend myself against this failure. Without any in-depth knowledge of the back catalogue, I can’t say for certain, but I feel like Cold Welcome was a good place to start.
In Cold Welcome, Ky Vatta – Admiral, war hero, scion of the notorious and wealthy Vatta dynasty – returns to her home planet for the first time since she left in disgrace as a young cadet. Dreading only the media attention, the tedious legal meetings and the unpleasant memories, she is largely unprepared when her shuttle is sabotaged, marooning her and the other passengers in icy waters off the coast of a barren, hostile continent. Relying only on her wits and her considerable leadership skills, Ky must keep herself and her fellow survivors alive when the weather, the landscape and an unknown enemy are all working against them.
It turns out that Cold Welcome follows on from Moon’s lengthy Vatta’s war series – which I will most definitely be reading post haste – but due to her excellent writing I only clocked that after getting a fair way into the novel. The giveaway was that the universe and the backstory was just too complete and well rounded to have gone unwritten. At no point did I feel like not having read the previous books put me at a disadvantage, as Moon gives you enough details about the past to infer character and relationships, but doesn’t bombard you with it or rely on you already knowing it either. I get the feeling that the first series was an epic space saga about desperate rogues and dangerous soldiers and full of action, which makes the fact that the same characters are trying to survive something as simple – relatively speaking – as a shuttle crash in cold water more interesting somehow.
In retrospect, coming at the series from this angle is perhaps the best thing I could have done. I have felt a bit over saturated recently with stories that rely on drama, romantic tension, grand evil schemes and enormous explosions to drive the narrative. I suppose in Cold Welcome there is an evil scheme afoot, but it’s not particularly important to the protagonists. When faced with the day to day necessities of survival in a harsh environment there is very little benefit in figuring out why the big bad is out to get you, it is enough to know that they are and that they’re bigger and badder than you. But now that I’ve got that out of my system and my interest is piqued I’m ready and willing to dive into the world of romance and explosions that I expect is waiting for me in Ky’s past. Cold Welcome also leaves a lot of threads untied going forwards, and I expect that this novel is only a small piece of the new picture that Moon is building.