The Outback Stars - Sandra McDonald Actual rating: 1.75 - didn't "hate it" but it's not really "OK"

Yawn...just, yawn.

There's nothing terribly "wrong" about this book but there's nothing awfully "right" about it either. The story takes place in an indeterminate future where the Earth has suffered a largely unexplained ecological catastrophe (the Debasement). Humans have discovered what appears to be an alien transportation system (the Alcheringa) that connects seven inhabitable worlds. Team Space, a quasi-military organization, monopolizes the Alcheringa, and our heroes (Jodenny Scott and Terry Myell) are crew aboard the Aral Sea, a stereotypically "troubled" ship.

The unexplained destruction of Scott's former ship has left her traumatized. Myell's problem is that he's crossed paths with Chief Chiba, the leader of a smugglers' ring aboard ship, and was framed for a rape he didn't commit (and which never really happened). Oh, yeah, and (surprise, surprise) Scott and Myell fall in love but the service's rather strict nonfraternization policies threaten to get in the way (she's an officer, he's just a sergeant).

McDonald is former Navy so I guess the day-to-day routines of the ship have a certain verisimilitude (assuming that any future human space fleets will be nothing more than the U.S. Navy in EVA suits) but do we really need to have page after page of bureaucratic in-fighting?

There's an attempt to blend in Aboriginal notions of the Dreamtime and how that relates to the alien technology that allows humans to travel from star to star.

There's some passing reference to the injustices suffered by the non-Western cultures stuck back on Earth because they couldn't afford to establish colonies off planet.

There are hackneyed plots concerning the smugglers, Scott's and Myell's relationship, restoring Scott's division's morale (she's in charge of internal supplies - laundry, uniforms, etc.). None of which are terribly interesting or rise to any level of suspense.

The writing is so banal and clunky and uninteresting, I wonder that I finished the book but it was just good enough that I kept plowing ahead, hoping that something interesting would happen.

To no avail.

As I note in the recommendation field, unless you're a drug-addled koala bear or wallaby, I can think of half a dozen better ways to waste your time on a Saturday afternoon.