Orbit | 2017 (13 April) | 434p | Review copy | Buy the book
Admiral Ky Vatta is on her way back to her home planet Slotter Key as a hero. The war is over and Ky, more than anyone, was responsible for the victory. It’s a bittersweet moment. Ky left Slotter Key in disgrace as a cadet years before but she’s told things are different now. Her great aunt is Rector of the planet, responsible for its forces, and the Commandant who expelled her is the one to greet her, ready to make peace and welcome home this great war hero. So all goes well until a saboteur crashes Ky’s shuttle, hurling it into the roughest of seas, close to the most hostile of the planet’s continents, abandoned and failed by its terraformers.
With most of her fellow officers murdered, it’s up to Ky to save the remaining shuttle crew and passengers, aware that her enemies may turn up to finish the job, long before rescue can arrive. But the immediate problem is to survive as this unwelcoming planet does its worst. Some of its secrets, though, are about to be revealed.
Cold Welcome is, I’m afraid to say, the first novel by Elizabeth Moon that I’ve read, but the premise of this one instantly appealed to me. I loved the sound of a disaster story set in space, in the same way that I was drawn to Arthur C. Clarke’s A Fall of Moondust and Andy Weir’s The Martian. I’m fascinated by the bravery and resourcefulness of individuals who fight to survive against all odds in the most volatile of environments, and space is as hostile – yet alluring – as it gets.
Much of Cold Welcome deals with Ky’s efforts to bring her fellow survivors together on sea and on land and it’s thrilling stuff, not least because Ky has to be as suspicious and alert as she is capable in a crisis. I really enjoyed these sections. Without giving anything away, what they discover on this planet is extraordinary. But I couldn’t help finding it all a bit of a coincidence because the shuttle could have crash landed anywhere on the planet. The novel becomes something else during its second half, perhaps losing my attention a little bit, but I’d be interesting in discovering more about what they found.
But not all of the action takes place on the planet. We also follow the – extremely drawn out – plans of Ky’s nearest and dearest (especially Rafe Dunbarger) to put together a rescue mission. It’s in these sections that we become aware of the wider troubling political situation as people scramble for control now that the war is over.
Winning the peace looks like it could be even more difficult than winning the war, as testified to by Cold Welcome being just the first novel in a new series, Vatta’s Peace. The book does have a satisfactory conclusion but it’s clear that it’s leading on to more. I think if you’ve read the Vatta’s War books, as I haven’t, then you would get more from Cold Welcome than I did. You may feel more of an attachment to Ky and her family and partner than I felt. You also might have more patience with the author’s style, which I did feel rambled a little. But, as I say, I suspect these issues were mostly because I went in to this as a newbie when there is an awful lot of back history which I couldn’t pick up on, even though it’s not necessary for understanding and enjoying the actual story. Which I did, very much.
I loved the descriptions of Slotter Key and its harsh environments. I am such a fan of adventure stories set in cold wastelands and this certainly fits the bill. I also really enjoyed the hints that there is more to this planet’s development than its history books might suggest. Cold Welcome is packed full of adventure and intrigue and I look forward to seeing how the series will develop.