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Vatta's War: Trading in Danger, Part 2
Elizabeth Moon
Multi-cast performance, adaptation
GraphicAudio, 5 hours

Vatta's War: Trading in Danger, Part 2
Elizabeth Moon
Elizabeth Moon grew up in south Texas, 250 miles south of San Antonio and eight miles from the Mexican border. She attended Rice University and joined the US Marines in 1968. With a second degree in biology, she entertained thoughts about going to med school after her husband, but circumstances intervened.

Elizabeth Moon Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Oath of Fealty
SF Site Review: Vatta's War: Trading in Danger, Part 1
SF Site Review: Victory Conditions
SF Site Review: Moon Flights
SF Site Review: Command Decision
SF Site Review: Command Decision
SF Site Review: Engaging the Enemy
SF Site Review: Marque and Reprisal
SF Site Review: Trading in Danger
SF Site Review: Speed of Dark
SF Site Review: Once A Hero
SF Site Review: Rules of Engagement
SF Site Review: Remnant Population

Past Feature Reviews
A review by John Ottinger III

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[Warning: Spoilers for Part 1]

Vatta's War: Trading in Danger, Part 2, by Hugo-nominated and Nebula award winner Elizabeth Moon, picks up right where Part 1 left off. As Part 1 closed, Kylara Vatta, captain of the trader ship Glennys Jones, had been shot and her fate was unknown. As Part 2 of this audio drama opens, Kylara has survived being shot, awakening in the hospital of one the mercenary ships that are interdicting the planet of Sabine Prime. Quickly regaining her senses, but without the advantage of her implant (an iPhone for the brain), she returns to the Glennys Jones only to find that her small trader ship is now to be a prison for crews from non-combatant ships in the Sabine area, including one particularly belligerent captain. Forced to agree to the mercenaries' use of her ship as a cattle car, Kylara must tread the thin tightrope of appeasing her guests while remaining in charge of the Glennys Jones, her first command. Meanwhile, the mercenaries have left the system, leaving Kylara under the threat of mutiny.

Where Part 1 of this series was given over to creating and developing the character of Kylara as she left the military academy under inauspicious circumstances to become one of the youngest trade captains ever, this second part is much more action-packed and exciting. Onboard hand-to-hand fighting, the constant threat of annihilation in the vacuum of space, and Kylara's encounter with a former friend-turned-enemy keeps the suspense high.

The actors who portray the various characters also bring their "A" game. Whereas in Part 1 Kylara had a whiny, grating way of speaking (leading me to compare her voice to Millhouse of the Simpsons) the Kylara of Part 2 has a more mature voice, one with more confidence, leading me to believe that my assessment of the actor for my review of Part 1 was flawed. The supporting cast continues to be a help, adding enough differentiation of voice to keep those listeners who tend to fall asleep at single-reader audiobooks awake, aware, and better able to track the flow of the narrative. The narrator and the actor who plays Kylara mesh well. Both women have enough voice differentiation that the listener knows when one or the other is speaking but with enough similarity that the narrator herself sounds almost like a mature Kylara relating her experiences in the third person.

The narrative is scripted well, and the person who adapted the story to an audio drama carried over all the details and characterization that makes Elizabeth Moon's original novel a pleasurable read, while at the same time paring it down enough so that the story never drags or becomes tiresome, even when Kylara gives herself over to introspection.  

The music and sound effects are also more discriminate in this second part. Whereas in Part 1 the music was repetitious, Part 2 has a variety of scores, from the ethereal lullaby to the militaristic march.  The sound effects are more supportive in this second part, not distracting from the dialogue or overshadowing them, but more subtle, gentler. The effect is of a more realized universe, and a story that has more cohesion in its disparate parts.

The Vatta's War: Trading in Danger audio drama is a great listen. Full of exciting adventure, a detailed setting, and spearheaded by a remarkable female character, the tale of Kylara Vatta will appeal to military fiction and science fiction aficionados alike.

Copyright © 2010 John Ottinger III

John Ottinger III's reviews, interviews and articles have appeared in many publications including Publishers Weekly, Sacramento Book Review, and Tor.com. He is also the proprietor of the science fiction/fantasy review blog Grasping for the Wind.


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