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Review: Weird Space: The Baba Yaga by Una McCormack August 24, 2015

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews.
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Another Netgalley review.

Now that was entertaining. Una McCormack has written a lot of TV tie-in material in the universes of Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Blake’s 7, but this is her first non-tie-in novel, and it’s as good as her past work led me to expect.

This time McCormack is working in a shared universe, Weird Space. Looks like it was created by Eric Brown. I’ve read a few of his earlier books but not the first two in this series, not that it matters. The book works as a standalone novel. You learn everything you need to know through the course of the book.

Basically, this is a suspenseful space opera novel, in a classic style that shouldn’t alienate readers who are used to TV and movie space operas like Star Wars or Blake’s 7 more than the works of Iain M. Banks and others who’ve gone farther with the concept. There’s an authoritarian interstellar human government, an alien species with whom humans warred but are beginning to coexist with, spaces on the fringe where the Expanse has no power and crime and anarchy prevail. A new threat has arrived: the Weird, a species whose encounters with humans have been destructive and terrifying. The Expanse government is preparing for war, but some Expanse intelligence agents think there may be another way and risk their lives to search for it.

The book becomes something of a chase through space as protagonists come together to find a planet that may lead to peace instead of war — but they’re being pursued by people with a very different agenda and the willingness to kill whoever stands in their way, and the main characters don’t always trust each other. The book’s ending is a bit abrupt, though satisfying; it’s possible that some of the threads are to be picked up in a future novel.

Finally, something that shouldn’t be noteworthy but may be of interest in light of raging conflicts in science fiction fandom: most of the leading characters in the book are women. Some are survivors, some are fighters, some are mothers, some are all of the above. What they all share is that they’re believable characters in a tale full of action, mystery, and suspense. I’m tempted now to go back to the earlier novels set in this universe, and I’d love to revisit it in another novel by Una McCormack. Looking forward to what she does next.



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