Roberta Gellis






Five Star Publishing, Aug 2004 Re-release
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Science Fiction

Life as a Free Trader requires that one deliver goods with one hand and carry a precautionary stun rod in the other. Cyn of the Free Trader ship Lystris has had enough of being terrified in his daily job. When he runs across a recruitment ad for the Overstars Mail Service, he sees it as a life of secure routine, with enough star-hopping to keep life interesting.

The announcement that pirates may be taking over imperial mail ships seems more than a little unlikely to Cyn. But he does have an unusual passenger list this trip, and there are rumors of trouble brewing between the Empress and her son. Even on his guard as Cyn is, it takes some clever maneuvering to evade the first attack. Cyn believes his pursuers must have help from aboard his ship. We have seven passengers to consider, and any one of them Ė or all Ė might not be what they seem.

Niais, bred to be a high class geisha but not smart enough to qualify for the job, canít or wonít say why she is traveling with a mysterious package to such an unlikely planet as Ingong.
Rocam, a twittery old lady on her way to a wedding, seems entirely too cool when danger threatens.
Aimie, a tough, elegant businesswoman who travels for a living, has a surface as fake as her nails.
Demoson, Aimieís business rival, wears a professional geniality that could cover anything.
Wakkin, Demosonís assistant, spends remarkably little time assisting Demoson.
Mortchose looks entirely too much like a brute sadist for Cynís peace of mind.
Hachisman with his complaints is the only passenger who behaves as Cyn expects his passengers to behave.

Cyn calls his mail ship the Piss Pot, which indicates a little more breezy irreverence than the book as a whole actually has. In general, the humor centers on the brainless nymphet Niais, who, like a faultily programmed computer, never lets go of an idea no matter how out of place it seems. Whether she is besieging Cyn or demanding to be taken to Ingong, Niais has the unshakable faith of the innocent that life will go as she wants it to. In the meantime, she is determined to give everyone around her exactly what they want, no matter what. The effect is that of a cute running gag.

Author Roberta Gellisís greatest writing strength is the psychology of her characters, but in OVERSTARS MAIL she is focusing on the fun side of mystery-adventure. Depth of psychology has no place in it. It does have some vivid scene-setting. For several days after reading OVERSTARS MAIL, I kept getting flashbacks to the sensations of living inside Cynís compactly constructed, efficient speed ship, the Piss Pot.

OVERSTARS MAIL was published in 2000, first as an ebook. It is now being re-released in hardcover. The original title was OVERSTARS MAIL: IMPERIAL CHALLENGE, suggesting that a series was contemplated, but Ms. Gellis has since moved on to a historical mystery series; and her delightful historical fantasy co-written with Mercedes Lackey, THIS SCEPTER'D ISLE, was released early in 2004.

Oct 2004 Review, edited July 2005


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