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The Stars Down Under by Sandra McDonald

01/01/2011. Contributed by Paul Hanley

Buy The Stars Down Under in the USA - or Buy The Stars Down Under in the UK

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pub: TOR/Forge. 334 page hardback. Price: $24.95 (US), $27.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1644-8.

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This book, ‘The Stars Blue Under’, has two main protagonists, a husband and wife, who serve in an interstellar navy. He, Terry Myell, is a Chief whilst she, Jodenny Scott, is a Lieutenant Commander. This is, I think, the second book about these characters. I have not read the first one and although it seems perfectly readable as a standalone book, as always I would imagine it would be better to start with the earlier one first.

The couple are assigned duty together on a planet called Fortune. Whilst huge ships transport colonists from an environmentally ruined earth to other star systems an alien system has been discovered called the Wondjina Spheres which are able to transport people/objects between far-flung objects and perhaps times. This alien system has shut down and the authorities – Team Space – believe Terry and Jodenny can make them work again. Clearly, there was an unexplained connection between them and the Spheres in unread book one, ‘The Outback Stars’.

One interesting theme running through the book is what I suppose is called Aboriginal Mythology. Most Science Fiction books, TV and film for that matter, tend to use Greek or Egyptian Mythology as a backdrop. The mythology in this book is completely unknown to me but does seem to provide a rich treasure trove of tales and images which the author skilfully weaves in and around the story.

Terry initially refuses to help with the Spheres project but is pressured in to it. Whilst the Spheres refuse to transport others, once he appears he is able to make them work. A team of them sets off and is trapped on a succession of worlds with various threats to overcome whilst they work out not only how the Spheres work and so how to get back but who created the system in the first place. It seems that as well as travelling in space, the system may be moving them in time.

The book is quite interesting because Terry is not the archetypal gung-ho hero. Although he has been decorated for bravery, he is argumentative and not inclined to take personal risks if he can avoid it. His spouse is equally awkward and they both seem to be more or less permanently at odds with their superiors.

Sandra McDonald has weaved an intricate story – part journey, part mystery. Aliens are encountered, the Aboriginal Mythology coming to life and although I felt the story rather lost its way towards the end certainly worth a read.

Paul Hanley

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This book has 99 votes in the sci-fi charts

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