The Stars Blue Yonder by Sandra McDonald is the third in a series of books beginning with The Outback Stars. The series is a space opera featuring military politics, True Obsessive Love, evil reptilian Roon, and Australian aboriginal gods who pick their Chosen when they enter spherical teleportation portals. The book’s dust jacket description says it better than I can: Chief Terry Myell died and became a god, careening around space and time at the behest of a voice that told him to save all of mankind. The entire book is spent time traveling and moving between alternate universes.
The backbone of the series, and this book, is Jodenny Scott, an officer in a military space fleet and a commander on one of its enormous ships. She spends the majority of the book seven months pregnant, or in old age and in several situations depending on the timeline. And being obsessive about getting her husband Terry back from wherever he died, even if the situation seems dismal in whatever time-stream she’s in, and even if she doesn’t completely believe he’s back from the dead. It’s a good thing Jodenny’s a likable character with flaws and a strong streak of heroism in her. Otherwise her obsession (so proper in space opera) puts her totally over the top. And yes, I did say, he died. But everyone knows, especially Jodenny, that no one in SF ever really dies.
Jodenny’s not in a typical position of an abandoned wife: no, her husband was kidnapped in the previous book by a band of humans trying to figure out those spherical portals, and then seized by the gods of his native Australia to fulfill a role in their pantheon. Her main goal is to be at the place he’s going to show up when he comes back to her time and place. It’s a huge leap of faith. Jodenny manages to convince the other man who cares for her to help her in her quest to find her [dead] husband, and McDonald makes his willingness and her determination in this context believable.
The Outback Stars series is fairly unique in US SF/F in that it uses the scaffolding of Australia’s native belief system. Terry Myell is part aboriginal, so he does have this connection in his background. Jodenny Scott isn’t, but she’s from Australia also. The gods/aliens themselves influence events in a series of short scenes, and an earlier seduction of Terry Myell by the crocodile goddess has vast repercussions for Earth, the Roon (who are and did invade Earth in the first timeline), and Jodenny and Terry.
There are a large number of plot-threads, a large cast of characters, and a bunch of time lines to keep track of, and McDonald does a great job of helping the reader keep everything straight. I could have done with less uber-obsession out of Jodenny. She’s a fighter, though, and has command ability flowing out of her, so…okay. Of course, Terry Myell, her husband, has equal plot time; his rests mainly on convincing Jodenny of-well, if I told you, that would be a big spoiler. They’re both saved by being charming characters and by McDonald’s ability to write a good tale.