(The Serrano Legacy #1)
Riverdale: Baen, 1993. ISBN: 0-671-72176-3. Pp. 364
Review © 2007 Branislav L. SlantchevI am confused. I thought writers improved with experience. And yet here's Moon who will challenge this sensible notion. I started the Serrano Legacy smack in the middle with the first book about Esmay Suiza because I had some doubts about a series that was recommended by Baen's "If you like X then try Y" gimmick with X being "horses" and Y being the series. It's not that I don't like horses. It's just that I don't particularly care to read about them in sci-fi novels. Unless they are doing something sci-fi, of course. At any rate, I figured that by the middle of the series Moon would have worked out her passion for horses and I'd get some straight space adventure. I was sort of right about that although the result was not exactly overwhelming. Still, I persevered and the road was bumpy. With the huge disappointment that was the last, at least up to this point, installment, I nearly gave up on the series. But then, for some unfathomable reason, I decided to give the first three books a chance. Maybe I wanted to know more about Heris and her stories with Livadhi and Petris, I don't know.
But I did, and that's where my confusion began. You see, this, the very first book in the series, is actually among the best. The narrative, while maybe too linear for some tastes, runs along like a straight highway through a desert and one has to continue until the end without any service stops along the way. The style is simpler and much easier to follow, with none of that "wandering in a daze" quality that I found so off-putting in the later entries. Maybe Moon was still honing her craft here, but for some inexplicable reason she's apparently managed to hone it in precisely the wrong shape.
This is not to say that there are no problem here. There are horses. There are fox hunts. There are also plenty of future world aristocrats who hunt foxes on horses. I can't quite understand that fascination with future world aristocrats but for some odd reason that's what many space opera writers seem to fixate on (Weber, anyone?). So what we get is basically a story about very rich people, some of whom are not very nice, and several competent but down-to-earth military types who manage to mesh quite well with said aristocrats despite misgivings to the contrary. Of course, one has to do some horseback riding and we, as readers, have to endure some interminable descriptions of horseback riding simulators, horseback riding training sessions, real horseback riding by people who seem to have a knack for it, real horseback riding by less talented types, and then some longing about horseback riding by people who should know better.
Putting aside the horse/aristocracy conceit, the story is quite simple. Heris Serrano has just quit the Navy under a cloud (apparently, she's refused to carry out a murderous order by Admiral Lepescu and has accepted voluntary retirement to spare her crew the court-martial). She lands a job as a yacht captain with the extremely rich and quite old (like over 80-years old) Cecelia, a somewhat extravagant horse-lover who is bent on crisscrossing the galaxy in search of the next horse competition. Heris has some tough time with her current crew, which includes smugglers and incompetent lazy types. She does manage to get the ship in order and deliver Cecelia to Sirialis where she learns to hunt fake foxes with her new patron. Just when it is all about to go that place where no sci-fi novels should go, some restless impossibly handsome but somewhat odious young aristocrats sneak out on a jaunt only to end up being hunted for sport by Lepescu and his cronies.
There really isn't much that's original here, with the manhunt and all. However, it was still fun to read despite the somewhat incredible coincidences (e.g., Ronnie stumbling into the secret cave when so many people had searched for it in vain for so long). We get to meet Brun back when she was still Bubbles and before the harrowing experience waiting for her in the future. We also have the Lepescu story that will be referenced time and again in the series (although Moon would be careful to supply the necessary details). Finally, we get the love story between Heris and Petris, not to mention the introduction of my favorite character Oblo. It seems that Lady Cecelia is also at the center nearly as much as Heris, and I honestly did not care that much about it. The story ends with a clear hook for a sequel: with the Prince being found out to have participated in the illegal hunting of humans, that's just one embarrassment that his King will probably be glad not to have to deal with.
On the whole, this novel made me want to read the other two in the original first three. Not bad for a series I had given up for dead.
March 23, 2007