In recent years I read and enjoyed the seven books of Elizabeth Moon’s ‘Serrano Legacy’ and intended, at some point, to read her five part ‘Vatta’s War’ series. When ‘Cold Welcome’ was announced, the first in the follow-on series ‘Vatta’s Peace’ I thought I’d best get a move on and read ‘Vatta’s War’, but then I was offered ‘Cold Welcome’ to review before I had the time. I was a bit unsure whether to read it and risk spoiling the earlier books but, as this is billed as a new series and not continuing directly on with the same story, I decided to risk it.
My gamble paid off. Ky Vatta is returning to her home planet, after whatever heroics transpired in the previous series, which I guess gives away the fact that she survived, but I already knew that from reading the cover. There is obviously lots of background information I’m missing that might seem significant to someone familiar with the previous books, but this is indeed an entirely new tale that does not rely on previous knowledge to make sense. Some of the characters in ‘Cold Welcome’ are evidently returning from the previous series and mention is made of things they were involved in but nothing that I feel will spoil my enjoyment of going back to the original books or that interferes with my appreciation of this novel.
Although the books have a space opera feel and the setting and characters come from a military background, there is no war nor any space battles, just as the series title indicates. Most of the action takes place on-planet following the crash of the shuttle carrying Ky Vatta and several other military personnel. The main part of the story follows their struggle to survive in the planet’s arctic winter and is a nice mixture of action, tension and danger. Meanwhile, other members of the Vatta clan face conspiracies and cover-ups as they try to discover Ky’s fate and deal with hidden enemies.
It’s a fairly evenly-paced book with no massively dramatic sections but with a story that keeps up the interest and continues to add new and interesting mysteries. There were lots of questions left unanswered by the end of the book with a conspiracy to unravel, secret military organisation to unmask and possible alien presence to be investigated, enough to have me waiting for the next volume and, with the references to previous books, enough to convince me to go ahead with my aim of picking up ‘Vatta’s War’ in the meantime.
The setting was reminiscent of ‘The Serrano Legacy’, although it’s unclear to me whether the two are intended to be related. There’s a similar make-up of powerful interplanetary families that wield both economic and political power and a broadly similar assortment of military organisations, pirates and varied planetary cultures. There’s the added mystery here of who terraformed the numerous colony worlds and how long ago this was done, with hints that this may be explored in future books. This whole aspect put me in mind of the vast archaeological mysteries tackled in Jack McDevitt’s ‘Alex Benedict’ books. As a whole, ‘Cold Welcome’ was a satisfying and interesting read and will be a series that I want to follow.
Gareth D Jones
(pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 431 page paperback. Price: $28.00 (US), $37.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-101-88731-8
pub: Orbit. 431 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-356-50628-9)