Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Reviewer: Valerie Bean
About The Book
In the 23rd century, spaceships just don’t go missing.
FBI agent Ray Volk is assigned to a task force to investigate a tragic accident: the disappearance of interplanetary passenger liner ValuTrip Cardinal, carrying 500 souls between Mars and Earth on a routine run. What looks like a cut-and-dried case of pressure loss is complicated by the arrival of a Martian Captain. A very cute Martian Captain who keeps sticking his nose in Ray’s investigation.
Martian exchange student Kelly Rack knows the disappearance is no accident. She survived the ships’ hijacking, but learns the former cruise entertainer leading the pirates has plans for the passengers, and they don’t include sightseeing. Kelly has avoided the murderous pirates, except now an off-duty Earth Commander insists on organizing resistance for the passengers. She forces Kelly to climb through service tunnels on sabotage runs, risking capture and death.
Can Ray shake down the right accomplices to capture the good ship ValuTrip Cardinal before its new captain spaces everyone on board? Will Kelly discover the pirates’ hidden plans for their prisoners? The race is on, because One of Our Spaceships is Missing!
“One of Our Spaceships is Missing” is an easy-to-read sci-fi story of a hijacked space cruise ship, with four main narrators bringing light to the situation of pirates, hostages, investigators, and the military rescue efforts. The reader and the protagonists are in a race to figure out who hijacked the ship, why, and where they’re going. Can the US and Martian militaries work together and catch up before the ship is lost and the hostages are dead? While not the most original scenario, it’s a good read for space opera fans.
My first impression was that every character was insanely horny. I can appreciate sex positivity, but for the first third of the book, the primary characters viewed each other as sexual targets. When the one ace character revealed his sexuality to rebuff the advances of his co-investigator, the author conflated asexuality with low sex drive, and the ace character spent a lot of time obsessing over the fact that he’d had to reject someone. Because the will-they-won’t-they question overshadowed the initial investigation, the promised inter-agency conflict between the US and Martian investigators didn’t play out as strongly as I’d hoped. However, the Earth-based investigation opened the door to explore the future world.
The setting had a lot of modern elements with future elements superposed. The United States seemed like a caricature of its current self. Americans loved guns, were Puritanical about sex, and trusted their church friends a little too much. Texas and Alaska had broken off to form their own states, and Mars was independent and militaristic. Allusions to lawless Mercury and asteroid mines gave two possible targets for the hijackers to run, and without intel, the rescue crews wouldn’t know which way to run. The world-building added solid intrigue and entertainment to the story.
Though branded military sci-fi, this reads more like a police procedural with space pirates. Since we have narrators on the ship, from the reader’s perspective, the spaceship is never missing, but the fate of the hostages remains unclear. I wish some of that action and reveals in the final two chapters had been spread into the whole third act. The scenes got shorter and the pacing took off at the end.
I was drawn to the story because it combined so many of my favorite elements: police procedural, suspense, space pirates, and queer characters galore.
VB is a scientist and sci-fi writer who grew up on a steady diet of Star Trek and space operas, mysteries, and thrillers. They’ve written and published several space operas and sci-fi thrillers under the name V. J. Mikles, with progressively more queer characters as they’ve explored their own queer identity. (The pronoun experiments are ongoing.) As an aromantic/asexual/agender, they are particularly interested in finding diverse stories that don’t portray asexuals as aliens. In addition to writing, their creative endeavors include dance, choreography, playing ukulele, and producing short films. Their motto in life is “I can be everything I want, just not all at the same time.”