Cold Welcome by Elizabeth Moon

Orbit, 2017, 439 p.

 Cold Welcome cover

The cover makes it obvious (“Vatta’s Peace: Book 1” is inscribed below the title) that this is the first part of what I assume is a trilogy. What I hadn’t realised when I picked it up was that there is a previous trilogy (“Vatta’s War”) to which this is presumably a sequel of sorts. Not that it matters: Cold Welcome pretty much stands on its own with Moon slipping in information about Admiral Ky Vatta’s past as and when necessary.

After apparently unexpected success as a war commander against unlikely odds Vatta is returning to her home planet, Slotter Key, where her family is a prominent presence. There is some early interplay about the wearing of spacesuits for a shuttle descent which makes it beyond obvious to the reader that skullduggery is afoot. And indeed the shuttle encounters trouble during the descent, its pilots and a local military commander being murdered by devices in their suits. Vatta and her aide-de-camp wore their own suits and so are spared, along with lesser luminaries on board. The shuttle comes down in a polar sea near an uninhabited continent which – conveniently or otherwise – has a reputation for mishaps and communications blackouts.

As senior military officer Vatta takes charge even though she is not in the local command chain. Her expertise gets the survivors through a few days at sea in life-rafts and landfall on an inhospitable beach. From then on it all gets a bit Alistair MacLean with Vatta wondering whom she can trust and intrigues played against her. The continent also turns out not to be quite as abandoned and inhospitable as everyone supposed.

Cold Welcome is reasonably standard SF fare with not a lot of consequence to it. Violence, though not entirely absent, is mostly off-stage here (for which relief much thanks; I’m getting fed up with SF where violence seems to be the only type of conflict resolution available) and the SF trappings are mostly off the shelf. We don’t find out though who exactly the conspirators were who committed the shuttle murders nor those behind the goings-on on the polar continent. No doubt all will be revealed in later books in the sequence. I may not bother with those though. Neither the scenario nor its execution piqued my interest enough.

Pedant’s corner:-Stavros’ (Stavros’s,) “he had lived into that label” (lived up to that label makes more sense,) Captain Argelos’ (Argelos’s,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech, Colonel Greyhaus’ diary (Greyhaus’s,) “the crew were resting” (the crew was resting.) In the acknowledgements: Gonzales’ Gonzales’s.)

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