Saturday, October 20, 2018

James Review -- Vicky Peterwald: Dominator

This week I decided to review Vicky Peterwald: Dominator by Mike Shepherd. 

The story begins with the protagonist en route to her wedding, which goes well despite an assassination attempt during the journey. However, Vicky’s father fails to attend, and intelligence soon indicates that he has been left penniless by the manipulations of the Bowlingame family, which Vicky’s dead and wicked stepmother belonged to.

Vicky leads a fleet to Greenfield, the capital of the section of the empire officially ruled by her father but now ruled by the Bowlingames. Vicky knows instantly that the message explaining why her father is unavailable is a lie, because he is supposedly hunting bears in an area where the breed of bear in question no longer lives. She leads a team to her father’s incomplete palace to find that not only is the structure unfinished, but electrical service has been discontinued in the depths of a harsh winter. Emperor Peterwald isn’t there, but three cooks who are the last loyal members of his staff and whom Vicky considers to be her aunts are there. The cooks are rescued, then Vicky launches raids against the homes on the various high-ranking members of the Bowlingame family on the world. Emperor Peterwald is rescued, but he is on the verge of starvation due to the shortage, and low quality, of the food provided for him and his loyal staff members, and it is unknown if he will ever fully recover.

Soon after the fleet returns to Vicky’s territory, a fleet loyal to the Bowlingames raids a small world loyal to Vicky, and in response, Vicky’s forces begin a counteroffensive. Their first target is the world of Dresden. When they arrive, Vicky’s forces find the High Dresden space station seeded with an array of boobytraps. And even when the traps are bypassed, the Bowlingame forces reveal that much of the planet’s civilian population has been taken hostage and surrounded with a variety of explosives.

Using a storm system as cover, Vicky’s forces land a strike force including the Grand Duchess herself. However, they soon find a badly-damaged bridge which will allow only a small team to pass, a team that must include Vicky because her computer Maggie is the best hope of safely disarming the bombs around the hostages. And in the end, Vicky’s team finds themselves in a desperate battle against overwhelming odds with the fates of the hostages on the line…

Also, throughout the story, Vicky and her computer Maggie face a number of struggles tied to Maggie's growing self-awareness, including a tragedy when Maggie’s plan to intercept an enemy missile salvo destroys a number of friendly small craft.

I give this book 8 out of 10. It has a number of interesting planning sequences, and I like the issues Vicky and Maggie face regarding Maggie’s growing sentience a lot. The main problem I have is that space combat has always been one of the author’s strongest areas in my opinion, but there is almost no space combat in this book. The missile attack I mentioned above is pretty much it, and the author could have easily fit a few more small space battle scenes in without disrupting the book’s plot.

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