by Timothy Doyle

#33, December 27, 2004

BookThink Book Review
Bio Rescue
by S.L. Viehl
(pseudonym for Sheila Kelly)

Reviewed by Timothy Doyle

S.L. Viehl's Bio Rescue is a fairly straightforward SF tale. Kevarzangia Two is home to a native race of intelligent, orca-like beings, the 'Zangians. Located in the war-torn Pmoc Quadrant, the 'Zangians peacefully share their world with a colony of several non-native land-based races, many of them refugees from the conflict between the Allied League and the Hsktskt. Jadaira mu T'resa (Dair) is the commander of an Allied League fighter squadron whose members are all 'Zangian SEALs - Surgically Enhanced Altered Lifeforms.

Dair's alterations occurred at birth and resulted from treatment that saved her life from the ravages of the core plague that killed her mother. 'Zangian tradition would have abandoned the newborn Dair to die, since the good of the pod outweighs the good of the individual, and in the 'Zangian's ocean environment the dying or wounded draw predators that are a threat to the pod. But a Terran doctor rescued and treated the newborn, eventually becoming Dair's stepmother when she pair bonded with the infant 'Zangian's father.

Bio Rescue opens with Dair's dramatic rescue of a refugee ship that has blundered into a smart mine field. The rescue succeeds against all odds, not to mention against the wishes of the refugees who fire upon Dair for her troubles, for this ship is not only filled with xenophobic Skartesh, but also carries their supreme religious leader, Rushan Amariah. Rushan is a messianic figure who, according to Skartesh prophecy, is destined to lead his people back to their home planet, where his sacrificial death will reverse the damage done by the Hsktskt and make the planet habitable again.

Kevarzangia Two has become the rallying point for several thousands of Skartesh refugees, where their extreme xenophobia coupled with a less-than-charming tendency to urinate on one another during their public religious displays inevitably leads to inter-species hostilty. An unlikely friendship appears to grow between Dair and Rushan, and this becomes the focus for further misunderstanding and hostility between the 'Zangians and the Skartesh.

Meanwhile, Dair and her squadron resign from the Allied League forces, to join with FreeClinic medical personnel in creating Bio Rescue, an off-world medical emergency response team.

Sex, romance, danger, heroic rescues, adventure, alien pirates, death, betrayal, an invasion fleet - pretty much all of the elements of an old-fashioned SF space opera romp are present in Bio Rescue. But what elevates Bio Rescue above the standard thud-and-blunder space opera (enjoyable as that may be) is Viehl's sure touch with character.

Bio Rescue is all about characters, and all about Character. The story is populated with well-drawn, believable individuals that engage the reader. The dramatic conflicts within the story serve to further define the characters, who, individually and collectively, face challenges to their beliefs and their integrity - to their character, if you will.

Having read plenty of science fiction where the only Sense of Wonder invoked is to wonder which of the cardboard characters is the least interesting, it is a pleasure to meet Viehl's living, breathing characters.

Afterburn, the sequel to Bio Rescue, is scheduled for release in September, 2005.

Bio Rescue
ROC, July 2004, $22.95
ISBN: 0451459784

Purchase it here