RogerBW's Blog

The Ghosts Of Trappist, K. B. Wagers 06 December 2023

2023 military SF, last of its trilogy. The crew/found family of the not-Coast-Guard spaceship Zuma's Ghost are having to say goodbye to old members and welcome new ones.

The major thread of this book, indeed of this series as a whole, is that trauma hurts beyond the immediate moment, and the only way to sort this out is to talk about it with your mates. (It's not clear whether these people even have professional therapy available; if they do, it's never mentioned.) Also, FOUND FAMILY, and you can rely on your friends, even your superiors, to back you even when you're doing something that you think is foolish or impossible. That's fine, but when the point gets repeated again and again with different people it can start to thud a bit.

"Chief Khan, would you like to tell the rest of us what you're planning?" D'Arcy broke in.

"What, so you can tell me not to do it and then yell at me when I do it anyway?" Jenks asked, purely to hear the exasperated sigh from the big man.

"So we can help," he replied instead. "Though, on the record, if you die, Nika will be pissed at me."

Over on the plot side, spaceships are disappearing in the Trappist system, suddenly at a much higher rate than ever before; and now some of them are coming back; and they appear to be haunted. (All right, as a hard SF reader I find the basic idea of a disappearing spaceship highly implausible, but we clearly aren't in hard SF territory here. I mean, our heroes deal with an EMP attack (in space!) via a software upgrade.)

This is one of the few books that really needs its cast list; it's not that the cast is large, but one character can be "Zika" to her commanders, "Sapphi" to her friends, and "Nell" to people who are informal but don't know her well. (And another character is "Nika", just for extra confusion.) It's realistic, but the novelist's convention of having characters referred to in just one way and with easily-distinguished names exists for a reason.

It never seems quite to live up to the promises of the concept, and there's clearly scope for more stories about these people, but this is a worthy conclusion to a trilogy that overall I'd recommend.

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