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The Reviews :: Hunting Party
Reviewed by Che Munro

In Hunting Party we meet Commander Heris Serrano, a spaceship captain who has resigned from the Navy - the Regular Space Service - under a cloud and now takes command of a luxurious space yacht to chauffeur a rich old aristocratic lady around the galaxy. Serrano is the scion of an old navy family, from a long line of Captains and Admirals, born and bred for command. Being forced from the Navy by a treacherous admiral is not just the end of her career, it's the end of everything that gave her life meaning.

Now we follow her as she discovers that all is not well aboard Milady's space yacht, Sweet Delight. There are equipment failures, crew problems and suspicious activities which lead to the death of a crewmember and necessitate a diversion to a space yard for a refit. The strength of her character is revealed as she deals with problems, and learns to ride horses and hunt foxes as part of a growing friendship with her employer, the Lady Cecelia.

Finally she learns that members of her old Navy crew are in peril, and the opportunity comes to take revenge on the admiral who betrayed her, but it means walking into a trap where the hunters will become the hunted...

This is fairly standard space opera stuff, but it's well written, fast paced and a lot of fun - A rollicking space adventure. It's worth noting that Elizabeth Moon was a lieutenant in the US Marine corps; her military characters are tough and realistic and her battle scenes shine. This is a book with strong female characters, space ships, and horses. No Space Opera fan of either gender should miss it.

Hunting Party is the first volume of a series called The Serrano Legacy. The other titles in the series are Sporting Chance, Winning Colors and Once a Hero-- Recommended.

In my own mind I class the Serrano Legacy with a modern sub-genre of Space Opera which I tag - however inaccurately - as "Space ships and Signet Rings". The characteristics I look for in this interesting SF niche are FTL star travel combined with a power structure which features the preeminence of titled families, written in a way which emphasizes romance and adventure over "Hard SF" speculation or "Soft SF" social commentary.

You can find other examples of the kind of SF I'm talking about by authors such as Lois MacMaster Bujold, David Weber, Anne MacCaffery, and Steve Miller and Sharon Lee. (As a side note, many of these authors are published by Baen books

Would these societies, which seem to combine both a free commercial middle class of techies and merchants, and an upper class of pampered aristocrats really work as harmoniously as these writers seem to think?

Here's a quote that a friend pointed out to me some time ago. Any writer of fantasy should find this idea to be of some interest:

"Why do so few writers of epic or heroic fantasy ever deal with the fundamental quandary of their novels -- that so many of them take place in cultures that are rigid, hierarchical, stratified, and in essence oppressive? What is so appealing about feudalism, that so many free citizens of an educated commonwealth like ours love reading about and picturing life under hereditary lords?

Why should the deposed prince or princess in every clichéd tale always be chosen to lead the uprising against the Dark Lord? Why not elect a new leader by merit, instead of clinging to the inbred scions of a failed royal line? Why not ask the pompous, patronizing wizard for something useful, such as flush toilets, movable type, and electricity for every home in the kingdom? Given half a chance, the sons and daughters of peasants would rather not grow up to be servants. It seems bizarre for modern folk to pine for a way of life our ancestors rightly fought desperately to escape."

- David Brin, Afterword,
Glory Season.

Elizabeth Moon herself rightly enough disagrees with my knee-jerk categorization of her complex society as anything as simple feudalism.

"It is made clear in Hunting Party that the whole "royalty and aristocracy" thing is a fashionable game which the very rich tried out for the heck of it...and the contrast between their role-playing (none of them are *really* related to the aristocrats of old Earth; they picked their titles out of old books) and the real power structure was supposed to be a fun bit of satire, akin to that of Surtees and Trollope in the 19th c. and Wodehouse in the 20th, with a side jab at those Americans who married into European royalty (trading money for a title) so they could play exactly the same game. The government is a non-Constitutional representative secular plutocracy (government by the rich, via a council in which members vote.)"

"It is contrasted, in the series, with a fascist dictatorship, a tyrannical theocracy, a religious but tolerant representative government, and a secular Constitutional republic. It's startling to have this political complexity dismissed offhand as "cardboard cutout aristocracy" with supposedly feudal structure."

- Elizabeth Moon, Personal Communication 2003


Point taken, Ms Moon.

The themes of Class struggle, social justice and injustice and the erosion of undefended privilege and power in times of change are themes of this series and they are explored further in following books.

Get this novel if you're looking for a light, entertaining read, but, one which will pose interesting questions if you think about it critically, so please don't switch your brain off completely while enjoying the thrill of the chase.

I liked this; what else can I read:

If you enjoyed Hunting Season then you'll like The Deed of Paksenarrion, also by Elizabeth Moon. I also highly recommend Remnant Population.

Try Partners in Necessity by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee--here is their web site: www.korval.com/liad.htm.

There is also Lois MacMaster Bujold. I recommend starting with Barrayar, which is collected with Shards of Honor in Cordelia's Honor. All her writing is good.

Look out for Nimisha's Ship by Anne McCaffery - I recommend looking for it find it in a library or a secondhand shop.

This genre grew out of the broader field of Space Opera. Writers such as Alan Dean Foster and Stanley Schidt are recommended.

As always, this field owes a great debt to the grandfather of Space Opera - Robert A Heinlein. Try Double Star which is one of his best, or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or Citizen of the Galaxy.

The work of Ursula Leguin, or C.J. Cherryh should provide interesting contrasts to this type of SF.

For a laugh, see if you can find The High Crusade by Poul Anderson, or The Warlock in Spite of Himself by Christoper Stacheff.

What is there in Wyvern's Library which is similar to this?

If you haven't checked it out already then be sure to look at the Deljin series by Debra Lynn Turpin. I'll also include a plug for my own unfinished story, Saving Uptopia, which I've recently updated , although it's more like L.E. Modesitt than Elizabeth Moon.

I'm always looking out for space opera to recommend to my readers from the Library. If you know of any, please drop me an email at flirt@technologist.com.



Rating:
Author: Elizabeth Moon

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