The Outback Stars - Sandra McDonald
I've been a fan of science fiction for as long as I can recall and it's always a pleasure to read books with strong female characters in the main role. If I recall correctly, The Outback Stars first hit my radar when it was reviewed on the Tor blog and so I added it to my 'get hold of this' list.

Our hero is Lieutenant Jodenny Scott, one of very few survivors from a terrible spaceship disaster, who is desperate to get back into space and try to forget what she's lived through. Her world is the ships on which she works, running the essential but unglamorous stores, one of the people who make everything happen even if it's behind the scenes. Sadly, disaster has a way of following Jodenny and she soon discovers that her new ship also has more mysteries about it than she would hope.

The universe in which The Outback Stars is set is peopled mainly by Australians and there's also a strong link with Aboriginal myth through the experiences of the other main character, Terry Myell, who is having odd hallucinations. Before Jodenny came on board, he'd been falsely accused of rape and so was trying to deal with the aftermath of that accusation, while also attempting not to lose his mind because of the mystical experiences with which he's confronted.

So far, so good, but unfortunately the author just couldn't resist throwing in a romantic subplot that takes over at times. We're expected to believe that a traumatised officer almost immediately starts fantasising about being held by the strong arms of a man she's only just met, who is her subordinate, and who's got a rape allegation still hanging over him. This seems a little unlikely, to say the least. Sadly, it's that storyline that diminished, for me, what was potentially a very interesting concept and I'm not sure I'll bother with this author again if she's so determined to follow the mainstream that way, even though there's apparently a sequel (The Stars Down Under) due out some time.