cover image The Stars Down Under

The Stars Down Under

Sandra McDonald, . . Tor, $24.95 (334pp) ISBN 978-0-7653-1644-8

Military SF thriller, xeno-archeological adventure, interstellar romance and shamanistic vision quest combine in this ambitious but flawed sequel to 2007’s The Outback Stars . Chief Petty Officer Terry Myell—whose taboo enlistee/officer marriage to Lt. Cmdr. Jodenny Scott has landed him a tedious desk assignment—is kidnapped and forced to join a mission seeking a group of researchers who disappeared while investigating a network of spherical gateways that allow almost instantaneous travel between the stars. Inexplicably, Myell is the only one who can get the system to work. As he and his captors explore strange worlds for signs of the missing scientists, they discover a hostile reptilian race bent on controlling the secrets to the gateways and wiping out anyone in their way. McDonald leaves substantial questions of crucial backstory unanswered, and the divergent plot lines laden with Australian Aboriginal myth and folklore references leave this sophomore effort disjointed. (Mar.)