Games of Command
by Linnea Sinclair
Review by Karen Burnham
Spectra Mass Market ISBN/ITEM#: 0553589636
Date: 27 February, 2007 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Sebastian is a captain with a past she must always hide. Kel-Paten is a cyborg admiral with forbidden feelings. Eden is an empathic medical officer, caring and competent. Jace is a roguish telepathic pirate with knowledge about secret government forces. Together they must navigate Games of Command.
These four characters make up the essential dramatis personae of the book. Kel-Paten, as a cyborg, is not supposed to have feelings at all, much less romantic ones. He's been hiding his feelings for Sebastian for over ten years, since they were on opposite sides of a war. When their two sides became allies, he thought he was the luckiest man in the galaxy when he was able to get her transferred to serve as the captain of his flagship. Sebastian is very nervous serving with Kel-Paten. He has a well-earned reputation as being a by-the-book commander who insists on having everything exactly right with little tolerance for nonconformity. He always seems particularly stilted around her, and she's never sure when something might come up that would give him a hint of her sordid past. As a Captain who serves through the first crisis of the book dressed in pink sweatpants and a t-shirt that reads "My Name's No, No, Bad Captain! What's Yours?" conformity really isn't her strong point.
The plot centers on the arrival of Jace Serafino, a pirate who is Kel-Paten's long-standing nemesis. He convinces Eden, the chief medical officer, that he has important information about a cabal operating within Kel-Paten's government. Eden and Jace meet in a telepathic landscape, and as he talks to her and she heals him, they inevitably fall in love. Eden convinces Sebastian of Jace's claims, and none of them know to what extent they can trust Kel-Paten. When they are ambushed outside of a space station and forced to jump blindly into unknown space, the tension and distrust heightens on all sides, spiced with plenty of sexual tension. Together, with the help of Reilly ( Eden's super-space-cat, or furzel), and Tank (Sebastian's super-space-kitten, or fidget), they must overcome the mind-bending games they are being subjected to by evil forces.
This is not a particularly serious book (see furzel and fidget, above), and it's not meant to be. From the author's introduction, you know what you're getting into: "This bit of space opera romance silliness is dedicated, with thanks to..." And that's exactly what we get. If you've ever enjoyed Elizabeth Moon's books, but wished that they had less plot and more romantic melodrama, this book is for you. If you enjoy adventure romps, romance novels and space opera, you'll get them all in this book. There are some slow parts, but those don't last too long and are usually enlivened by the arrival of the furzels, who are some of the cutest and useful alien cat-beings you'll ever read about. The core of the book is the romantic tensions between the characters, with the conspiracy plot being mere background, as shown by the brief denouement plot-wrap-up after all the romantic pairings are squared away.
Sinclair's space opera universe is littered with furniture from all over the science fictional landscape. The Psy-serve organization puts one in mind of Psi-Corp from Babylon 5, it's got shuttles, transporters and rubber-mask aliens like Star Trek, it's got brilliant tactical commanders like in David Weber's books. Original? No, but surely fun. Some younger readers might also relate to Kel-Paten suffering through what might be described as delayed adolescence: sure he's big and strong and brilliant, but when faced with the woman of his dreams he internally dissolves into puddles of angst, shyness and lust. In short, this is fun science fiction beach reading. Enjoy.