Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Sectors SF #5
Published by Jean D Walker on May 2nd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
She saved countless soldiers in the wars ... but does she have the weapons to fight an outbreak? Dr. Emily Shane, veteran of the Sector Wars, is known as "The Angel of Fantalar" for her bravery under fire as a medic. However, the doctor has her own war wounds-severe PTSD and guilt over those she failed to save. Persuaded to fill a seemingly frivolous berth as ship's doctor on the huge and luxurious interstellar cruise liner Nebula Zephyr, she finds the job brings unexpected perks-a luxe beach deck with water imported from Tahumaroa II, and Security Officer Jake Dilon, a fellow veteran who heats her up like a tropical sun. However, Emily soon learns she and Jake didn't leave all peril behind in the war. A mysterious ailment aboard the Zephyr begins to claim victim after victim ... and they must race against time and space to find the cause and a cure! Trapped on a ship no spaceport will allow to dock, their efforts are complicated by a temperamental princess and a terrorist-one who won't hesitate to take down any being in the way of his target. If anyone's left when the disease is through with them...
Four years ago, I reviewed Wreck of the Nebula Dream here at Reading Reality. And I loved it. The story is an action-adventure/science fiction romance re-telling of the wreck of the Titanic, released for the 100th anniversary of that real-life disaster.
The disaster on the Nebula Dream was every bit as crazed as the sinking of the Titanic – but only fictional lives were lost in the making of this story.
The author Veronica Scott has continued her exploration into the universe she created for Nebula Dream in her Sectors SF series. Book 3 in the series, Mission to Mahjundar was reviewed by Jo Jones over at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly back a bit closer to when it first came out.
I haven’t read any of the books between Nebula Dream and Star Cruise: Outbreak I don’t think it matters. I enjoyed Star Cruise: Outbreak so much that I immediately purchased the previous and the next books in the series. It did help that I had read Wreck of the Nebula Dream before Outbreak. It’s not that the characters continue, but as both Nebula Dream and Outbreak are set on cruise ships, the disaster and the resulting changes in regulations after Wreck, have some effect on Outbreak. But not, I think, enough to keep people from jumping right into the series at this point.
On the other hand, Wreck of the Nebula Dream was just plain good. So if you love SFR, why wouldn’t you read it?
Back to Star Cruise: Outbreak…the title does give a bit away. There’s obviously going to be an outbreak of something or something on this cruise. And it’s something all right.
Our heroine is Dr. Emily Shane, decorated war veteran, PTSD sufferer, and reluctant temporary Chief Medical Officer on the Nebula Zephyr. Her dad, also a doctor, pretty much diagnoses that the cure for Emily’s PTSD is to take what should be a paid vacation as ship’s doctor on a luxury starliner. And then he strategically makes sure she can’t refuse the posting.
Dad was right, even if a bit high-handed about it, but not quite in the way he planned. Serving on this cruise is the best thing that the “Angel of Fantalar” can do to find a way to occupy her time and energy – and the ship desperately needs a well-trained medic who won’t fold under extreme pressure to figure out how to treat the epidemic that breaks out among the 3,000 passengers on board.
At first, she thinks it’s a norovirus – and yes, that they are still around feels right. But when the disease mutates into more and deadlier strains, it is up to Emily and her makeshift crew to figure out the problem before it is too late. If the Nebula Zephyr becomes a plague ship, the captain will have to fly it into a sun to eradicate the disease.
Along with everyone on board, including Emily and the man she has come to love.
Escape Rating B+: If you’ve ever read Stardoc by S.L. Viehl, there’s a resemblance if you squint a bit. In both cases, it’s the doctor who saves the day, not any of the more traditional warrior-type heroes (or even heroines). This is a story where smart wins out over brawn. And also over a few cases of idiocy.
Let’s just say that a few of the secondary/tertiary characters are not just eligible for Darwin Awards, they actually manage to receive them!
But Star Cruise: Outbreak is Emily’s story from beginning to end. She’s a marvelous character to follow. While we don’t see the military action that resulted in her unwanted moniker, the Angel of Fantalar, we do see what she did to earn it – through the eyes of Security Chief Jake Dilon, one of the Special Forces veterans who is still alive because of her heroism on that deadly beach.
Jake has had plenty of fantasies about the woman who kept him alive, but none of them live up to the reality of meeting his “angel”. She saved his life, and now he returns the favor. Among the crew of mostly military veterans, he introduces Emily to people who understand what she went through and just how difficult the recovery is. He gives her space in which to find herself again, and to eventually, slowly, carefully, fall in love.
When the outbreak occurs, it becomes instantly clear that not only does Emily need the Nebula Zephyr but it needs her. The previous (and missing) CMO just didn’t have the skill or the discipline to handle what hits them.
One of the unanswered questions in the entire story is the fate of that missing doctor. It was necessary for the story that he BE missing, but not ever learning his fate is a gaping hole. Chekhov’s gun was on the mantlepiece, but no one picked it up and fired it. Which niggles at this reader more than a bit.
The process of dealing with the outbreak is gripping from beginning to end. Because this series uses different characters and scenarios in each book, it wasn’t necessary that everyone survive – and that wouldn’t have been realistic. So the tension is always high.
There are a lot of little stories within the big story that stand out – people who do their utmost to help solve the outbreak, people who fall victim, and people who survive. It’s their stories that make the tale so fascinating, even though the eventual solution was just a bit deus ex machina.
If you like SFR, if you loved the Stardoc series, or if the episodes of Star Trek Next Gen where Dr. Beverly Crusher saved the day are your favorites, you’ll love Star Cruise: Outbreak.
Originally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly