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Cold Welcome by Elizabeth Moon

Published by Del Rey on April 11, 2017

Cold Welcome isn’t much of a science fiction novel. It’s more of a conspiracy / survivalist / adventure novel that happens to be set on another world. Parts of the story are plodding. Some of it shows promise, only to disappoint with its failure to move in an interesting direction.

A family crisis forces Grand Admiral Ky Vatta to return to Slotter’s Key, where her great aunt is the Rector of Defense. The Vatta family is under attack, and Ky becomes wrapped up in the family drama when the shuttle she is taking to the surface of Slotter’s Key is sabotaged.

Ky leads the crash survivors to an inhospitable continent and eventually to a structure that seems to have been built by aliens (the kind of convenient aliens that make things humans can use) but more recently occupied by Vatta family enemies. The enemies account for the conspiracy theme, and Ky’s haphazard attempts to save the others from hypothermia and starvation account for the survivalist theme. The adventure theme … well, there’s not much to it.

We are frequently told that Ky is a capable leader, but you wouldn’t know it from reading the story. Ky is always talking about how much they need to do while never seeming to do anything. Her people are huddled in something like a shed, wondering when their food will run out, while two other structures are within easy walking distance, and Ky’s attitude is “we’ll have to investigate those next week, but right now we’re too busy making up sleeping schedules and melting snow for water.” Like they can’t take a look at the structures while the snow is melting? Ky struck me as being too inept to lead a Girl Scout troop, much less a space fleet.

In more than 200 days on the continent, almost nothing happens despite Ky’s whining about how busy everyone is. A moment of betrayal adds momentary interest, and pages addressing the lackluster attempts to locate Ky chew up a number of pages, but for the most part this is a novel of characters searching for something to do. And since the characters aren’t very interesting, neither is the novel.


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