In the dark days of science fiction television/movies before the 1977 release of Star Wars, there was camp. Shows like the old black and white Flash Gordons, Lost in Space, or the fodder that makes up the punch lines in Mystery Science Theater 3000. Yes , there was the brilliance of Star Trek but it was a lone shining star of quality amidst a galaxy of campiness. That was OK. When it came to all things space opera, I liked cheesy.
Good thing I still do, since Star Raiders has the feel of the old campy sci-fi shows. ASP agent Greyson Dane had betrayed Sheyanne Kedar’s love when he used their romance to bust her father for smuggling and piracy. Hurt and betrayed, Sheyanne took off for parts unknown only to reappear as a kick butt smuggler. No one is more surprised than Greyson when her actions turn violent. C.O.I.L, AKA the Consortium for Intelligent Life, gives the E.L.F, AKA the Earth League Forces, a warning: Stop Sheyanne Kedar or we will crush you.
Earth plans to fight violence with violence to end this. Greyson thinks there is a better way, but he is unable to get authorization for his plan so he steals a ship and heads out into deep space. He knows some of Kedar’s old smuggling ports and has no doubt he can find Sheyanne by visiting them. When Sheyanne captures him, she may think she has him right where she wants him. In truth, he is right where he wants to be. Quickly he comes to realize that the actions raising C.O.I.L,’s ire aren’t being done by Shy and her crew. Can they overcome the treachery of their past to work together now and capture the real culprit? Especially since trust seems impossible between two people holding such dark secrets?
Let the camp begin! Prepare for space battles, tracking devices, near misses, aliens and genetic alterations! For sci-fi fans there is nothing new here, but there is plenty of covering old ground for anyone feeling nostalgic for an old style space adventure. Part Firefly Alliance and part Star Wars style evil Empire, C.O.I.L and E.L.F. control a group of planets filled with a diverse number of species. There is, of course, also a section of unexplored space, filled with aliens of its own that our heroes skirt on their adventures. There are no long explanations about technology (I got the feeling the author would know less about this than I would, which is just sad ;-) but the tech that is used is stuff we have all seen before. Like I said, old ground.
In fact, it is old ground all around. The elements that aren’t basic to sci-fi are elements basic to romance novels. The villain is, of course, obsessed with our heroine and in typical romance novel fashion will risk anything and everything to get at her. Shy and Grey are also straight out of romance novel central casting. He is daring, dashing and a good boy with just enough bad to make him interesting. She is beautiful, generous and kind. Their relationship is also a cliche. There is much “I can’t trust him/her! Oh, how I want him/her!” going on here and of course they give in to that lust. They land in the dead average range of how they handle their relationship and it does of course include old standbys like Big Misunderstandings and secret babies.
There were a couple of hot button moments. One is that there is some treachery by the hero. He fixes it later in the book, but he lied to the heroine about something rather large and I considered it pretty darn caddish. The second is his acceptance of C.O.I.L.. The way this group is described makes them seem like anything but a gathering of intelligent life. More like a gathering of violent, greedy criminals. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Captain Kirk, and Malcolm Reynolds would have rebelled against an evil empire like that, and I was disappointed that Grey was determined to work within the system. Given what these people were like it sounded as though humanity would have been better off deserting Earth and heading for parts unknown.
With everything being standard it is no surprise the book got a C. That C survived pretty much everything she threw at me, hot buttons included, till the end. What earned it the minus was a last minute family heritage musical chairs that was completely unnecessary to the plot. In fact, it was ludicrous. And the inessential nature of it pushed it straight to annoying. The sad thing was that if the author needed more pages she had the option to explore her secondary characters more. Silky especially would have been interesting to hear more about. Damon would have made good reading too. A subplot involving either of them would have worked much better than what she did use.
Star Raiders is a simple, campy space adventure. It was fun but only because I like space opera. It hits on the low end of dead average in most things. I found it readable, but because of the predictability of the plot I basically knew what was going to happen and felt no urge to read through the night and get to the end. It’s the kind of book that keeps you company while you sit in the car waiting for the kids to get out of school, but you have no trouble closing it and heading to the grocery once the little ones are safely buckled in back. If you’ve read every Susan Grant and Linnea Sinclair out there and desperately need a space fix, it could be OK. Just don’t expect too much.