Beyond Varallan by S. L. Viehl

I'm not sure if my mind is all here today. We got back to New York last night and the cat was so happy (after first crying loudly in a long accusatory manner), that he kept me up all night with his loud purring to himself. I am NOT exaggerating when I say I had about an hour of sleep. And I couldn't kick him out of the room when he'd been left alone for 2.5 weeks so I just let him be. Now you get to see me complain about it instead.

Anyway, the review for book 2 of the Stardoc series. I reviewed book 1, Stardoc, here. Without spoilage, the series is about Cherijo Grey Veil, a talented human surgeon fleeing the reach of her powerful father who has plans for her and wants her back with him. She travels away from her homeworld of Terra to other planets to escape but her father still keeps trying to get her, enlisting mercenaries and governments to help him and threatening her friends and allies. Meanwhile Cherijo makes friends, learns about other species, deals with complicated relationships, and saves lives with her medical expertise and brilliant mind. There are 7 books in this series out so far, and Viehl blogs that book 8, Omega Games comes out in August 2008 (that link has yet another link to an excerpt of book 8 which contains spoilers. I haven't read that except yet. Don't tell me anything if you do). She also blogs that she sees the series ending in 10 books and if she doesn't end up selling the 10th, final book she will probably put it up as an e-book.

In this book, Cherijo is on the Sunlace, a ship controlled by the Jorenians, who have adopted her into their family. Characters from book 1 are with Cherijo – Reever (whose intentions are always hard to deciper), as well as her friends Alunthri and Dhreen. Along with Cherijo's usual critical medical emergencies and trying to get along with other staff members who may not like her, there is a much bigger problem – a murderer on the ship who begins to target Cherijo in disturbing ways and this is the focus of most of the plot.

My thoughts (in lazy bullet form again):

  • I'm not very into this book's cover. No one looks like I think they look like (the coloring looks off from what I pictured when I read the book) except vaguely Cherijo. But you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, even though I do peer at them and think things to myself.
  • This is the second book where Cherijo has more than one man interested in her.. I would start to think Mary Sue except Cherijo's hardly perfect. Even though she's supposedly pretty and smart, she has a huge stubborn streak. In this book this stubborn streak was extreme – in some parts I felt it bordered on uh.. bitchy. I also understood the individual reasons each of them courted her – they both had a unique connection with Cherijo that they didn't have with anyone else. But since this is a series – the relationship stuff is going to evolve over several books. I think it's going to be complicated. Should be interesting. Not sure if I will scream by the end of it or if it will be fun to anticipate what's going to happen through the prolonged torture. We shall see.
  • This is also the second book where Cherijo has to deal with problems personality-wise with her coworkers. I thought it was still interesting that it resolved itself very differently from her problems in book 1.
  • You think you won't see certain characters ever again but then they pop back into the story in unexpected ways.
  • Even though this is science fiction, its not hard sci fi. I think I like the space opera, actiony, not very hard sci-fi stuff. If you don't like hard sci -fi, you may like this - there isn't jargon here that trips up the writing and makes it hard to get into. Viehl has a more straightforward writing style.
  • I don't know if I blogged about this or if I just commented about this, but so far in the three books I've read from Viehl I've started to expect a certain constantly good wrap-up to her books. She has a way of making things complicated and then writing herself out of the knots. It's very comforting that even though this is a series, it feels like each book has a relatively satisfying ending. I say that even though after book 2's ending and wrap-up there IS a setup for book 3 and a cliffhanger, but at least it's published already and you won't be waiting for months/years. It wasn't a life-death cliffhanger to make me climb walls but it was quite zing-y and made me look forward to book 3.
  • Verdict – quite a satisfying to read series. I'll be still reading them.

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