Monday, February 02, 2009

Mr. Data, set a course -- for love!

Sometimes you feel like reading a romance novel, right?

OK, I'll assume by the chirping crickets I just heard that I'm wrong here. But anyway, sometimes I want to read a romance novel. But not just any romance novel, mind you; I'm not looking for those books with the titles printed on the covers in flowery script over a picture of some long-haired guy whose chest is just a-heavin' in the wind. No, I want at least some modicum of muscle in my romances! So I was happy to discover Linnea Sinclair, writer of space opera romances. Yes, you read that right: space opera romances. Games of Command is the first of her books that I read, and damned if I didn't enjoy the hell out of it. Looking for a science fiction beach read? This is it.

In the wake of a war, at the end of which a tenuous truce exists and a shaky government is holding power, former combatant Tasha Sebastian is assigned to the ship commanded by her former adversary Admiral Branden Kel-Paten, a cybernetically enhanced man who is a hard, cold, by-the-books kind of commander. His big, dark secret is that he's desperately in love with Tasha Sebastian, a love which he dares not show because cybernetics are not supposed to show emotion and can be deactivated if they do. They take into their custody a wanted man, Jace Serafino, who happens to be telepathic, and is able to learn of Kel-Paten's feelings; and in the course of trying to figure out what to do about the potentially explosive situation, Tasha breaks into Admiral Kel-Paten's personal records, hoping to learn something definitive about his intentions and loyalties, but instead finds his personal journals where he has written extensively of his unrequited love for his second-in-command.

Yeah. Hilarity ensues, along with lots of action: adversaries trapped in shuttlecraft stranded in deep space; potential lovers who are also former enemies finding themselves relying on each other on a mysterious planet that's not what it seems; races against time; all the usual complications in a book that makes you want to read it over a big bowl of buttered popcorn. The story here is pretty much paper thin, but Sinclair is able to keep things moving pretty briskly, her dialog tends to crackle, and her characters are sharply drawn and sympathetic. In terms of SF, there's nothing here that you wouldn't find in a better episode of Star Trek (in fact, I kept visualizing the book's main ship, the Vaxxar, in terms of the good old NCC-1701-D. Recommended, even if it's not terribly good for you.

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