3 out of 4 stars
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Milky Way Gala by Roger Alan Bonner is the sequel to Milky Way Tango, a science fiction novel set in space. Isolated from her lover, Jimmy, Sarah takes her first command of a spacecraft, Skip Away. Her mission is to travel many light years to the star system 55 Cygni using the ship's faster-than-light "jump engines". Unfortunately, the jump engines malfunction, stranding Sarah and her crew in deep space more than eight light years from their destination. Sarah quickly realises that, if they can't repair the jump engines, they are all dead. Alas, the chief engineer is comatose, rendering the diagnostics they run on the malfunctioning engines almost impossible to understand. In addition, a shipping container full of the "ping pongs" they need to send on ahead to check the safety of their travel before a jump is missing. Meant to have five hundred ping pongs, they only have one...
Bonner's writing style was easy to read and engaging. There were no unnecessarily complex sentences, making for a smooth read from start to end. I especially enjoyed the logistical and problem-solving aspects as Sarah - with help from her ship's computer "Gail" and robot "Wally" - thought her way through surviving in space and trying to find her way back to civilisation. It reminded me of Andy Weir's bestseller The Martian, only with a little less focus on hard science. Milky Way Gala was more a story of two lost lovers trying to find each other, aided by technology, with a less intense focus on the intricacies of the technology itself.
Having said that, I did clearly see the author's passion for all things space and science fiction. He comprehensively constructed his futuristic universe, from spacecraft to technology to business dealings. The technology and futuristic settings integrated seamlessly into the story, never seeming tedious or unnecessary. Each item, such as the ping pongs and the onboard robots, had a useful function, revealed only in the course of telling the story. These technologies were also often used in creative ways by both Jimmy and Sarah.
Jimmy's attitude toward people was admirable. He had a great idea for a space salvage business using a new search method and made a lot of money very quickly. However, he had no hesitation in spending this money on the business, himself, and his employees. Also, when he found a derelict ship adrift in space, he always considered the prospect of potential survivors needing rescue first, before thinking about the ship itself as something he might make money from. People always came first and money second. Consequently, he was very popular with his employees...and women.
Milky Way Gala was a thoroughly enjoyable science fiction survival story which I found addictive. The need to find out if Sarah and her crew would survive - and if so, how - drove the story for me, and I finished almost five hundred pages at a gallop. The minor editing errors I found throughout the book were the only negatives, mainly typographical errors and a few incorrect words, such as "creek" instead of "creak". Unfortunately, these errors limit my rating to 3 out of 4 stars. Regardless, I found this book a highly entertaining ride which I think would appeal to any fan of science fiction.
Milky Way Gala
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