Vick’s Vultures by Scott Warren
Another tasty space opera treat from the book universe.
Victoria Marin, privateer and captain of the salvage spaceship Condor, is in the red and in danger of losing her ship if she can’t locate fresh salvage and bring home some new xenotech for profit. It seems too good to be true when her crew catch a distress signal in nearby space. What she finds there, though, is a drifting wreck and an inconvenient survivor – First Prince Tavram, heir apparent to one of the largest and most powerful empires in known space. And there’s a deadly, powerful warlord from an opposing empire hot on his trail.
Vick’s Vultures is a space opera in the military spirit of Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War series and David Weber’s Honor Harrington books, with the alien species density per planet of the Star Trek universe. It’s light on description, great with the action, and tight on the military maneuvers. And unlike the genre’s ubiquitous young, untested commander persona who has to figure things out as crisis looms, we get Captain Victoria, a veteran with a loyal, established team, ready to rumble with the universe.
I was kinda thinking (okay, hoping) that there would be a romantic subplot somewhere in this story (because, come on, rescuing a prince?). So if you went there too, let me stop you right there. No romance. The most you get is some grudging respect. That said, there was plenty to love: Deadly space battles, tenacious warlords, an alien prince from a super advanced civilization, dangerous alliances, old enemies, government conspiracies, and (of course, of course) betrayal. Romance in the middle of a life-and-death struggle would have been a little weird. Not to mention that physiological differences between the species would have made insta-love very weird.
By far my favorite thing about this story (besides Tessa and Aimes’ brilliant subplot, which you need to read to experience), though, was the clever world-building concept.
“The galaxy is filled with vast and terrible empires, and humans survive on their little handful of planets mostly by scavenging around the edges of galactic battlefields, stripping alien wreckage for precious technologies.”
Here, humans are the underdeveloped underdogs in a universe of hundreds of thousands of species and empires, and they know it. They have few advantages, and the few times they got into it with an alien race, they didn’t exactly pull an Independence Day. Humans also have an intriguing reputation among the other aliens, but I won’t spoil it for you.
This is a short, fast read: a race to see who gets there first, Victoria with her hostage to safety, or the reader to the last page.
(Three and a half canaries. Lots of fun.)
Thank you to the publishers for this advance review copy.