by Patch O'Furr
Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer, submits this review:
Theta, by Sasya Fox
Mountain View, CA, Snowfox Press, August 2013, trade paperback $14.50 (395 [+ 1] pages), Kindle 99¢.
Theta is a formulaic but rip-roaring space opera. The titular protagonist is Jale Bercammon, the 36-year-old chief steward(ess) of the OCS Freeta, a luxury space liner in an interstellar civilization. She has served aboard the Freeta for almost twenty years, rising to the chief steward position and coming to think of her staff and the crew of the Freeta as her family. The first sign of trouble on this trip is their landing on the planet Brynton, in the midst of a violent civil war. Practically all Brynti civilians are desperate to book passage off-planet, and the Freeta is rapidly over-packed with upper-class refugees. One of them is the mysterious Miss Theta, an apparent almost-comatose adolescent who is brought aboard as a medical patient and booked into the finest stateroom on the ship. Captain Erin is personally instructed in Theta’s care, which includes giving her a prepared injection every four hours and:
Do NOT attempt to engage Theta in conversation.
Fine, until Jale learns that Theta is an almost-castrated male, and he is being given not medicine but Banerethin, which ship’s Doctor Jrmnia freaks out over because it is a drug so illegal that he could be executed for allowing it to be brought on board. Strangely, as the days pass, Theta becomes more rather than less coherent and amnesiac. He makes it impossible for Jale and her crewmates to ignore the order not to talk to him, but refuses to discuss who he is or what is happening to him.
Then the Freeta is captured by pirates. Their actions make it clear that they have chosen the Freeta because they learned on Brynton that it is carrying an incredibly valuable treasure, which none of the Freeta’s crew knows anything about. When the frustrated pirates cannot find any treasure, they kill a few passengers and crew, impress a few more as slaves – including Theta — and leave. When the crippled Freeta finally reaches its destination, several days overdue, it is besieged by authorities who investigate what happened in detail. Jale is given the job of telling what happened to Theta to his assigned recipient. His reaction is not anything like she expects: