The Outback Stars is a (space)shipboard mystery with a romance that really caught my heart.

Jodenny is one of the few survivors of a mysterious explosion on her previous ship.  Somewhat traumatised she ends up as a supply officer of a troubled division on the next ship to leave the planet where she has been recuperating.  I loved that Jodenny is not a captain or a warrior, but a woman who deals with the background stuff of running a ship.  In the process of sorting her team out, Jodenny uncovers a smuggling operation, activates a previously unknown (or is it?) method of alien transportation around the galaxy, finds out why her last ship really exploded, and falls in (forbidden) love with one of the men under her command.  This sounds like a lot to happen in one book, but everything is so intertwined it doesn’t feel rushed.

The Australian tinges to the setting, particularly the use of Aboriginal mythology for the alien built method of travel, are what prompted me to find the book in the library.  I haven’t come across an American writing using Australian culture before.  I thought she did it very well, but I am not Australian or Aboriginal, so I’m less likely to be offended.  (If the author had chosen New Zealand and Maori culture to write about, I’m sure I’d be more critical.)

We really don’t find out much about the aliens by the end of the book, the answers to the initial questions just lead to more questions.  This was not a problem for me, as the other aspects of the novel (especically the romance) ended in a satisfying manner. 

However, even after reading The Outback Stars twice, I found it difficult to articulate just why it caught my imagination and heart so much.  This review has taken me two weeks to write!  Heather Massey over at Tor.com has no such trouble with articulating her love for this story, so check out 10 Hella Sexy Discoveries in The Outback Stars.

I loved this book so much that I had to go and buy it and the sequel in hardcover.  (I’m still working on my review for the sequel, The Stars Downunder.)

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