FTL Flavors: Summary

This is the sixth and final installment of my series on the different flavors of FTL. We’ve warped through hyperspace and jumped through wormholes… or something like that. To clear it up, here’s a summary table showing how these various flavors stack up on the criteria I used:


Clearly, that’s a simplification of several simplifications, but in reducing the various drive features to simple yes/no pairs, it highlights a couple of things. First, not all of the options are represented. What if you took something like warp drive and changed the FTL-FTL box to no? What would that look like if FTL ships could no longer interact? Is it that they cannot see each other? Or maybe they only see each other long after they’ve passed? Maybe they have FTL drives but not FTL sensors?

For another example, what if we put a “yes” in the FTL-Navigation box for wormholes? Maybe instead of simple point-to-point tubes, we’re actually cruising through a complex network of junctions and connectors. Maybe our expected Sol-to-Rigel trip is merely the result of taking all the default options at every junction? What if we could alter course at key junction points and end up somewhere entirely different? What if that kind of exploration can only be done by trial and fatal error?

The second thing I notice with such a table reduction is that there are very different ways to expand these choices into the story mechanics of the drive system. Consider that wormholes and jump drives have almost identical table entries, i.e. Rarely or No across most of the table. Yet these two FTL systems have very different feels to their stories.

Similarly, even staying within a single system can give you FTL drives that end up looking quite different in the actual stories. Consider warp drive. We’re all familiar with how it works in Star Trek. We tear across the universe, warping space and manipulating subspace fields and so on. In my space opera universe of the Hudson Confederacy, ships are using tachyon drives, essentially throwing up ephemeral sails to catch the tachyon wind and yank them up to FTL speeds. The mechanism looks completely different, yet functionally, my tachyon sails are just another warp drive. But my navigators don’t worry about subspace interference. Instead, they worry about shifting winds and tachyon storms.

Furthermore, it’s also an over-simplification to think that a story must use only one flavor of FTL. Many combine them. For example, the Honor Harrington series by David Weber uses a mix of hyperspace and wormholes. That is, while most travel occurs via hyperspace, one planetary system hosts the intersection point of several long-distance wormholes, giving them a huge strategic advantage both for shipping and war. Similarly, some of the later Star Trek series (TNG, DS9, and Voyager) added rare wormholes on top of their trusty warp drive fleet.

So, did I skip a flavor? Probably. There’s a lot of SF out there. Some of those FTL systems may indeed be fundamentally different, but I suspect that a lot of them will boil down to being one of these four with different names and different hand-waving for the so-called science.

But the most important thing for all of them is to get your characters from here to there before they grow old and die. And once there, they can try to write a letter home, which brings up the matter of FTL communication, but that’s a subject for some future series of articles. With luck, I’ll get to that before we reach Sirius.

The whole series: Intro, Warp Drive, Hyperspace, Wormholes, Jumping, Summary

FTL Flavors: Jumping

shipjumpingThis is the fifth installment in my series on the different flavors of FTL, and this week we’re jumping into… well, jumps. A jump is essentially teleportation over interstellar distances. You set your destination coordinates, hit the switch, and then you’re at the destination. In some stories, these jumps are instantaneous. In others, the jump takes time while you exist in some transitory null-space. That second variation might sound a lot like hyperspace, but the distinction between jumps and hyperspace are in the details.

One thing about jumping, though, is that the terminology is much sloppier than for other flavors. For example, the Dune universe used jumping, though they didn’t call it that. It was “folding space”, but it was functionally the same kind of interstellar teleportation that I’m describing here. Star Wars muddies the water further by talking about “jumping through hyperspace”, making it unclear which of the two flavors they’re using. This flavor is the furthest from known physics, so it’s understandable that it has the most hand-waving and distracting terms.

FTL-to-FTL Interactions: There are none. If the jump is instant, there is simply no time, but if even it takes a few days or weeks, the ship is not in any kind of recognizable space. You can’t see other ships, so you can’t interact with them.

FTL-to-sublight interactions: There are none. Again, if it’s instantaneous, there’s no time for such interactions, and even if it takes time, your ship is completely cut off from the rest of Einsteinian space.

Relativistic effects: If the jump is instant, there are one. If it takes time, I have typically seen it take the same amount of time on ship as it did in regular space. However, I don’t see this time match-up as a hard rule for this flavor of FTL.

In-FTL Navigation: There is none. All of your navigation choices were set before the jump. After that, you are simply waiting to land. This is probably the biggest distinction between jumps and the hyperspace flavor. Hyperspace typically allows at least some kind of in-FTL navigation, even if it’s merely to stop short and drop back to normal space.

Speed Differential: Yes, there can be speed differences but not in the normal sense. After all, my instant jump cannot be any faster than your instant jump, but it is possible for my jump to be of a greater distance than yours. I jumped to Sirius in one jump, but you require four shorter jumps. That speed differential is a fairly common one in both fiction and space-based RPGs.

Another speed differential with jumping can be in the time it takes to figure out all those jump coordinates. This is less about the drive itself and more about navigational sensors and computation power, but it still impacts the overall speed of a series of jumps strung together. Similarly, it can take time to refuel or recharge the jump drives. So, not only do these jump delays allow two similarly-rated ships to have different overall speeds, but they further penalize any ship that has to do a series of shorter jumps.

Furthermore, jump accuracy makes a big difference in the final planet-to-planet travel times. Does your jump drop you out at the edge of the star system? In the neighborhood of the planet? Or can you plop yourself down in the atmosphere on a landing path to the starport? The further out you are, the longer you’ll spend travelling at sublight speeds to finish off the journey. Similarly, some jump systems don’t work well in gravitational fields, so it’s necessary to travel a ways out before making your jump in the first place. Put those together, and drive accuracy and stability can add days or weeks to your journey.

Now, for those jumps that actually do take time, we get into speed differences that are much more familiar. How long does a jump take? Is it the same for all jumps? Does it get longer the further you go? Maybe some ships can jump five light years in a day while others take a week. This kind of variation is fairly rare in stories I’ve seen, but I would not say it’s disallowed by the general flavor of jumps. It’s just another tweak.

Malfunctions: These tend to be either errors of navigation or fatal disasters. Sloppy navigation could be from miscalculating those jump coordinates, but they could just as easily come from some mechanical failure in the jump drive itself. I can see the jump-drive equivalent of Scotty shouting to the bridge, “Aye, her core filters are as twisted as the Admiral’s knickers!” Still, the worst that has happened is that you ended up somewhere other than where you meant to land, and space is 99.999… some more 9’s … 99% empty space. Very likely, you won’t have landed inside anything nasty.

ShipGoBoomOn the other hand, if “her core filters” are as twisted as Scotty says, they might just blow up when you hit the switch, especially if you’re too close to a planet, moving too fast, or anything else that makes a jump tricky. Who knows what would cause it, but when enough energy to teleport the ship five or ten light years goes awry, it’s not a healthy place to be.

And finally, there’s the possibility of jumping but never landing. These ships get lost in that transitory null-space, and we never hear from them again. Or do we? I’ve seen a few tales of the Flying Dutchman’s space cousin, and even one where they managed to recover them.

Special traits: A common feature I’ve see with jump drives is that they are reserved for larger ships, not little one-man fighters. This isn’t universal, but it’s common enough to note. Another feature I’ve seen crop up is the idea of jump points, i.e. fixed points in space where the local conditions are ideal for a jump. Those fixed points can add to the fun of space opera because they make space suddenly small again. The star system might be billions of kilometers across, but there are only four usable jump points. If you’re defending against an invasion or hunting unsuspecting merchants, those are the places you want to stake out.

That’s the end of the flavors. Tune in next week for a recap, some comparisons, and ideas that could point to as-yet-unsampled flavors.

The whole series: Intro, Warp Drive, Hyperspace, Wormholes, Jumping, Summary

FTL Flavors: Wormholes

artsywormholeThis is the fourth in my series on various flavors of Faster Than Light (FTL) travel, and today I’m dropping into wormholes. The basic idea of a wormhole is that it’s a shortcut between two points. Usually they are fixed points, but there’s some variation on that. Sometimes they are done as predefined shortcuts through some alternate parallel space, and other times they are special tunnels through our own space.

In most cases, they are fairly permanent and independent of the ships traversing them. Thus, ships that have only sublight capabilities are now about to cross vast interstellar distances just by popping through these wormholes, just like a pedestrian can cross town quickly by taking the subway.

FTL-to-FTL interactions: These are almost nonexistent. The only interactions you might have are with other ships (or beings) that are in the same wormhole with you. Plus, wormhole trips are usually presented as being fairly short, so the opportunities for interaction would be fleeting.

FTL-to-sublight interactions: There are none. At least, that’s how I typically see it done. The wormhole is completely cut off from the rest of the universe. At best, there might be some communication with stations near either end of the wormhole.

Relativistic effects: Typically, there are none. Sometimes the transits are essentially instant, like walking through a doorway. Other times, they last seconds to hours, but it’s generally presented as time flowing tick by tick along with a stationary timeframe.

However, I know of one wormhole setup where the wormhole is a tubular region of space where time flows thousands of times faster than normal, thus making the speed of light in that region thousands of times faster. Ships passing through this make up for the time-scale by travelling at relativistic speeds, thus slowing their internal time by a similar factor to the external speed increase. Thus, they make a multi-year journey in a few minutes according to their own clocks and quite possibly a few minutes according to our clocks as well. In that setup, however, there is no guarantee of an absolute matchup between the ship clocks and the stationary clocks, so there would be some variation from one wormhole to another, and sometimes even from one trip to another on the same wormhole.

In-FTL Navigation: Nope, sorry. You don’t get to steer the train. You can’t even pull the emergency brake. And no hopping out the back either. You stay on it until it dumps you out the other end. Do not pass Rigel. Do not collect two hundred quatloos. Your best bet is to hope that there are other wormholes near the end of this one so that you can exercise at least a little choice.

Speed Differential: In all the wormhole systems I’ve seen, the ships within the wormhole all travelled through it at the same speed. Or if there was any speed variation, it was not under the control of the ships themselves. They were merely being swept along by currents of different speed. Of course, there’s no guarantee that all wormholes move you along at the same speed.

Malfunctions: All the breakdowns I’ve seen with wormholes have been with the wormholes themselves. Either they collapsed or became untethered at one end. Typically, the worst that happens to you is that you’re stuck at the wrong end of a wormhole. Then again, I’d hate to be inside one when it collapsed.

Special traits: Wormholes have several interesting traits in the story-telling sense. The first is that they are often pre-existing objects outside the control of the characters using them. Maybe they’re naturally occurring phenomena, or maybe they were built by “the ancients”. Or maybe, like the subways, they were built by the government, and we peons have to live with them as they are. They key here is that it’s no longer a space travel system where we get to pick out our destination and sail on through the night. Instead, there are a handful of destinations to pick from, and if that’s not where we want to go, that’s just too bad.

The second interesting thing about wormholes is what they do to the Euclidean topology of space. I’m not referring to some freaky space warping around the wormhole entrance. Rather, I mean that Rigel is now 500 million kilometers away rather than 900 light years, because there’s a wormhole to take us there. Meanwhile, our next door neighbor Proxima is still 4.24 light years away because it has no wormhole. Yet another nearby star Sirius is now only 2.1 billion kilometers away (rather than 8.6 light years) because we can get to it via a series of wormholes, i.e. first Rigel, then to Polaris, Antares, Deneb, and finally Sirius. (Don’t get lost at Deneb – it’s a bad neighborhood.)

And finally, if the wormholes are not strictly ignorant carriers of traffic, but instead, intelligent agents of control, then those first two factors can make for some very interesting situations. Imagine being able to control all commerce, traffic, even information flow between these distant stellar islands, simply by deciding which ships will complete their journey, which worlds to cut off, or which radio transmissions to shunt aside. Now start thinking about it from the point of view of we peons not realizing that the wormholes are under intelligent control, and let your space-opera paranoia turn all the way up to Eleven.

technicalwormholeBut one last bit on wormholes. Like the warp drive, these might be possible if not actually feasible. What we call a wormhole is remarkably similar to a prediction of General Relativity, known more properly as a Einstein-Rosen Bridge. However, since our best theoretical examples of such wormholes are tied up with black holes, this still has a long way to go to before we can turn it into the green-line express from Sol to Rigel.

Tune in next week when we go Jumping.

The whole series: Intro, Warp Drive, Hyperspace, Wormholes, Jumping, Summary

Review: Protector, by C.J. Cherryh

This is the fourteenth – yes, fourteenth! – book in the Foreigner series, following the interpreter-ambassador Bren Cameron on his adventures through the Atevi’s world of deadly intrigue.

I confess that I’ve been waiting for Cherryh to pick up again on a plot thread left hanging in book 6, and it’s not like she’s forgotten about it. Indeed, the looming return of that plot thread is on everyone’s mind, but we did not get it in this book. I found that very disappointing in the previous book, but I did not mind it so much this time because the rest of the story was so engaging.

It would seem that young Cajeiri (son of the Atevi ruler) is finally going to have his felicitous ninth birthday, and to celebrate it, three of his human friends will be coming down from the space station to join him. Certainly, things have been tense, but it looks like, for once, he will have a nice smooth birthday.

Of course, not everyone wants it to come off that smoothly. He is a ripe target for assassination, as is his uncle, his great-grandmother, and Bren himself. Will the outlawed shadow guild actually make an attempt at all of them? Or are they unknowingly biting off more than they can chew?

It’s good old Atevi politics and assassination plots at their finest. If you’re an old Atevi hand, fluent in Ragi, and clear on your man’chi, go ahead and grab this one. It’s a worthy installment. I won’t say that it ends on a cliffhanger, but I’ve got a pretty good idea what the next book is about. Plus, Cherryh has hinted that the long-delayed plot thread from book 6 might be making a return soon. Can I hope?

If all of this is new to you, I direct you back to the first book, Foreigner. I admit it’s a bit of a slow start, but it sets the world off in the right direction. Think of the TV show Downton Abbey but with aliens and deadly politics.

FTL Flavors

I don’t know which came first, the fictional accomplishment of travelling faster than light or Einstein’s prohibition against it, but one thing is certain, fictional FTL travel is here to stay. The genre of space opera almost requires it, and it has become a convenient cheat for telling stories over vast distances while still keeping them within our grasp.

This is the first of a six part series on the various flavors of FTL travel. Specifically, I’ll be breaking down the various forms of FTL travel and looking at how they work. I won’t be digging into the technobabble of fictional engineering manuals. Instead, I’ll be taking a look at how they work it story terms, i.e. what they allow, what problems they present, and so on.

Specifically, I’ll be examining each of them under these criteria:

Does it allow for FTL-to-FTL interactions? When you’re on your way from Earth to Rigel-4, can you run into another ship? Can you talk with them? Can you get into a fight with them? Or does this particular brand of FTL prevent those FTL ships from passing in the night?

Does it allow for FTL-to-sublight interactions? This is similar to but distinct from the first question. If you pass some planet along the way, can you see it? Can you make an FTL strafing run against some unsuspecting target? Or can they somehow see you coming?

Do you still have any relativistic effects? We might be mooning Einstein as we blow past at warp 5, but it might be possible to have some strange time dilation effects in place. Maybe you still age a little slower? Or faster? Or is it random?

Does it allow for in-FTL navigation? Do you set your destination and then trust to luck, or are you keeping one hand on the wheel at all times? If you find out that you’ve made a wrong turn, can you fix it, or do you simply have to wait until you get to other side?

Is all FTL the same speed? Does this particular FTL allow for some ships to be faster than others? Can you chase someone and catch up? Can you outdistance your pursuer? Or are we all on the same train?

What goes wrong? No mode of travel is without the occasional flat tire or torn wing. When your FTL engine breaks, what is the fallout? Are you left in space sticking your thumb out, hoping for a ride, or did you disappear into an alternate dimension, never to be heard from again? Or do things simply go boom?

And finally, is there anything that makes this particularly special? What makes it distinct from all the other go-go-go gadgets in the spacelanes? Is it man-made, a natural phenomena, or a gift from the ancients?

So, I hope you’ll tune in over the coming few weeks as I pop the hood on various starships and take a look at the story mechanics inside.

The whole series: Intro, Warp Drive, Hyperspace, Wormholes, Jumping, Summary

Ships of My Fathers, Launch Day

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that I wrote another book, Ships of My Fathers. Well, it is now out there, officially, available for purchase. Right now it’s in print and on the Kindle. The other e-book platforms will follow later in the year.

It’s another space opera, in the same universe as Beneath the Sky, though it’s not really a sequel. It’s the story of a young man who finds out that his recently deceased father was not the man he thought he was and what he does with the mystery that leaves behind. Here’s the cover and blurb:

ShipsOfMyFathers_Cover300pxMichael was orphaned at seventeen, light-years from home. His inheritance: a starship, distant relatives he never knew existed, and inescapable questions that challenge everything he thought was true.

Michael’s quest for answers takes him halfway across the Confederacy, from the gleaming corridors of the wealthy super-freighters to the dark holds of Father Chessman’s pirate ships.

The truth is waiting for him, but he’ll have to survive to find it.


Where did this come from?

This story traces its origins to two main ideas. First, my father died of cancer about eight years ago. No, he did not leave behind any great mysteries, but I started to wonder what it would have been like if he had. What if he had not actually been an electrical engineer? What if he had secretly been a Cold War spy instead? Or what if he were a member of some ancient secret society? What if his old friends and enemies came looking for me?

We think we know our parents, but what if they really did have some dark secret? They could probably be quite effective at hiding it from you. You might not trust them to take you ice skating or to deliver on your Christmas wishes, but you figure that you can trust them on some fundamental issues, like what your name is, or whether they’re war criminals. Because of that, you never think to dig into those kinds of secrets. But sooner or later, the past catches up to everyone, and those secrets come out.

Another big source of this was someone who was a minor character in Beneath the Sky: Father Chessman. Something about him really appealed to me, and a number of other folks said they liked him as well. He’s the other half to the larger story arc in this series, as our protagonist Michael learns more of his own history, he finds himself learning more about the origins of Father Chessman.

In the end, the series is going to be about the rather big idea of moral equivalence, whether terrible acts are justifiable in dire situations or if some acts truly are beyond the pale. If so, which ones? What if it was your father who did it? What if it was you?

But along the way, there will plenty of space opera fun, with merchants, pirates, conspiracies, young love, and even the occasional explosion. Check out the sample chapters.

Review: Lieutenant, by Phil Geusz

This is the third book in the David Birkenhead series. I reviewed the first two books already. It’s the story of the apparently epic career of… well, a rabbit in the royal space navy. More specifically, he’s a genetically engineered rabbit-human crossbreed, raised as a part of a slave race but elevated to the status of a free person in reward for an act of bravery.

Lieutenant picks up David’s story as he gets his first assignment following his graduation from the naval academy. Just as plenty of people tried to push him down in the academy, the defenders of the status quo intend to tuck him out of the way, never to be seen again. So, instead of the ship engineering position he desperately wanted, he is posted to graves registration, seeing to the collection and proper burial of the humans who have fallen in service to the king.

Disappointed, he does what he can to perform at his best, but he is starting to accept that he will never escape this dead-end job and will simply have to serve out the remainder of his term before trying to find his way in the civilian world. But then, as plot contrivances would have it, he finds himself out on assignment collecting bodies from an old battle that sparks back to life. Left in command by acts of foolishness and desertion by his superior officers, he has to face impossible odds, resigning himself to die in a hopeless cause.

To some extent, this is young Birkenhead facing the Kobayashi Maru challenge from Star Trek, deciding how to face death and lead his fellow officers and rabbits willingly to it, but much like James T. Kirk, he does not believe in the no-win scenario, and woe be to the enemy who expects him to lay down and die peacefully.

So, in that respect, it’s a great bit of space opera worthy of any of the better known authors and universes. But I still have to admit, it’s this rabbit thing that makes it both really weird and strangely compelling.

In many ways, Birkenhead’s status as a free rabbit acts as a placeholder for any groundbreaking career officer, perhaps the first black officer or the first female officer here in the U.S. He faces many of the same challenges that they would, from the prejudices of his fellow officers to the outright hatred of those who must defend the status quo against the inevitable pressures of the future. On top of that, he is dealing with both the admiration of his fellow rabbits as well as their own preconceptions of subservience and inadequacy.

And yet he is also dealing with many problems that are unique to being a rabbit instead of a pure human. He eats different food, so he’s not necessarily welcome in the officer’s wardroom. He’s covered in fur, and that makes a difference in some of the special engineering suits they require. And for that matter, his feet are enormous by human standards, so his dress uniform is decidedly lacking in the polished boots department. So, all of that keeps this from being a simple proxy for the standard “first minority officer” story, and that combination, as I said, keeps it both weird and compelling.

The title of the next book hints at his continued rise through the ranks, and I’m looking forward to reading it. I’d rip right through the whole series, but I’m trying to pace myself.

Review: The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

I always felt badly that I had never read this classic book, that I was somehow not really an SF fan because of it. Eventually, guilt or shame brought it to the top of my in-pile, and I dove in. Now part of me wishes I had simply left it there.

The premise is that humanity of early 21st century is at war with a far-flung alien race. We’re not quite sure how it started, but it looks like they shot first. The only FTL is via some kind of wormhole, but there is plenty of slower-than-light travel to and from, and much of that travel is at relativistic speeds.

So, rather than leaving it as a pure space-navy war, we decide we need some boots on the ground. So who do we recruit as our cannon-fodder? Only the best and brightest will do. So we skim off the cream of our intellectual crop and send them off to battle. If only their commanding officers were as smart.

Which is leads me to the main complaint about this book. The people in charge were always extremely short-sighted and downright stupid. I recognize that to some extent this is a screed against the U.S. political/military leadership from the U.S.-Vietnam war, but it got really annoying as to just how stupid they were making these folks.

How stupid? Well, they planned their training with the expectation that half of the trainees would be killed or permanently maimed during the training. They also sent them on missions over the years (in fact, centuries) where the expectation was an average of 66% casualties per mission. But it’s not like we were stuck in the jungles, trying not to kill too many civilians. Nope, we were fighting over deserted rocks. What part of orbital bombardment did they miss?

And then there was the whole Malthusian situation back on Earth. I know there was a lot of concern about the rapid rise of population back in the 1970’s, but even growing up with that, I was never all that worried. The concern, as originally laid out by Thomas Malthus in the late 1700’s, was that our population would outstrip our food production, and that the only ways to combat this were draconian birth control of the less desirable or poorer populations or outright war and starvation to bring the population back down to a manageable level.

Some of offshoots of this back on Earth during the Forever War were an economy based entirely on calories. Then there were some civil wars and lawlessness that brought the population down. And then we had enforced and universal homosexuality. Maybe it’s because I now live in a world where most demographers realize we are not headed towards a Malthusian catastrophe, but frankly, I found most of this to be ridiculous.

Perhaps it’s unfair of me to lay these criticisms on Haldeman’s 1970’s book, but its repetitive message that our leaders are stupid and we are all doomed was very tiring. I prefer more optimistic futurists because instead of complaining about all the insurmountable problems facing us, they tend to propose the solutions that actually solve those problems.

And my final complaint about the book was that the resolution of the war was very much deus ex machina. After centuries, humanity transformed into another form that was able to communicate with the warmongering aliens. No, we can’t explain to you how the communication works, but now that it does, everything is just fine. The war was a silly misunderstanding, and now everyone can live happily ever after. We thank you for your centuries of pointless sacrifice.

About the only thing I did find worthwhile in the book was the realities of relativistic travel, of skipping forward into the future. Friends and family age and die. Technology and society march on in unexpected directions. The realities of life, death, and injury change from one trip to the next. That, at least, was interesting.

But by and large, I did not enjoy the book.

Review: The Last Colony, by John Scalzi

This is the third book in the Old Man’s War series, and it unites the storylines of the first two books. John Perry has been returned to human form, and Jane Sagan has been made human as well. They married and settled down on a world named Huckleberry, adopting Zoe, the orphaned daughter of a brilliant traitor.

Everything was going fine, and then the Colonial Union asked them for a little favor.

So John, Jane, Zoe, and the rest of their household are off to form a new colony on Roanoke, except this is no ordinary colony. It’s a mix-mash of divergent cultures and almost seems designed to fail. And then they get the rug pulled out from under them when it turns out the Colonial Union has been… shall we say, less than truthful. From there it’s an engaging story of setting up a colony under less than ideal circumstances, hiding from aliens, and discovering the truth about what’s really going on.

This was probably my favorite of the series so far. It was all fresh material, and there were lots of problems to be solved, both practical and political. John, Jane, and Zoe all did humanity proud, even if it wasn’t always what the Colonial Union wanted. They also peeled the lid off of a static situation, and I’ll be interested to see where the story goes from here.

So, if you faltered during the Ghost Brigades, pick this one up and keep on marching.

Review: Burden of Proof, by John G. Hemry

This is the second book in Hemry’s legal-centric space opera, something of a JAG in space. I had a few complaints about the space portions of the first book, but those are pretty much gone in this one. The space stuff was pretty good, and again the legal side was fabulous.

In this book our hero Paul Sinclair has made it up to Lieutenant J.G. and has mounting responsibilities for various shipboard activities and still has that extra role of legal officer hanging around his neck. So when an onboard accident kills a crewman, he gets pulled into the investigation, not only as the legal officer but for his own actions.

But not only to the investigation results not add up, they point to him as having been at least partially to blame while some admiral’s slacker son is praised. Sometimes it’s best to just lie low, but Paul can’t do that. He begins his own investigation, and it leads to some very unpopular places.

So, on top of dealing with shipboard accidents, the angry father of a girlfriend, and the court martial of another officer, he’s got to figure out if circumstantial evidence is enough to meet… yeah, I’m going there… to meet the Burden of Proof.

All in all, this was a strong second showing for this series, so I’m definitely going to pick up the third at some point.