Second

Rated 4.75/5 based on 4 reviews
Ensign Taylitha Basil didn't know what to expect at her first officer training retreat. Hiking up a mountain? She's never hiked. Canoeing back down it at the end? She's not a great swimmer. Dealing with an obnoxious peer who declared himself leader of their expedition? Definitely not in her plan.

Meeting the woman who'd become her captain and friend for years to come?

Bring it on.

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Words: 28,440
Language: English
ISBN: 9781452332116
About M.C.A. Hogarth

Daughter of two Cuban political exiles, M.C.A. Hogarth was born a foreigner in the American melting pot and has had a fascination for the gaps in cultures and the bridges that span them ever since. She has been many things—-web database architect, product manager, technical writer and massage therapist—-but is currently a full-time parent, artist, writer and anthropologist to aliens, both human and otherwise.

Her fiction has variously been recommended for a Nebula, a finalist for the Spectrum, placed on the secondary Tiptree reading list and chosen for two best-of anthologies; her art has appeared in RPGs, magazines and on book covers.

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Reviews

Review by: Eric Hinkle on Dec. 13, 2010 :
Second is currently one of the longer stories in the Alysha Forrest series, and one of the better. It is also a rare look into Alysha's life before she became captain of her own ship and gathered her own subordinates... like Taylitha Basil, who this story introduces.

The story itself is on one level a straightforward man (well, Pelted) versus nature, as a group of newly fledged ensigns are put through a leadership exercise. Taylitha's group is stuck with a pompous ass of a man who puts himself in charge, and a strange, quiet yet competent gray-furred Karaka'An named Alysha Forrest. We see the ensuing expedition through Taylitha's eyes and learn from both Basil (the foolish human) and Alysha what leadership means to many people, and what it /actually/ means. It is service - to others, not onself. Alysha serves the group by staying close to Basil and his racist cracks and macho posturing, shielding them from him; and in the end Taylitha learns that she too has what it takes when she saves Alysha from death. The story has the usual deep characterization and well-done plotting of Micah Hogarth's stories, and is a great introduction to both Alysha and Taylitha and the friendship they will eventually share. Truly a great story and worthy read.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Conrad Wong on Nov. 04, 2010 :
A little rough in places, but once it gets going, it's a good ride into uncomfortable country - what do you do when things aren't perfect, when you're not facing just the perils of the environment but difficulties from the very person who should be leading you through them?

There are no easy solutions, no smarts-make-right or force-makes-right deus ex machina here - in this story, the characters must live with their choices. A good introduction to two of the major characters of the Stardancer stories.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: JigokuInu on Oct. 06, 2010 :
Well worth the price indeed! This story is a very solid, believable piece of work. The character development and interaction are very well done and even the secondary characters have that sense of depth.

Not *quite* a coming-of-age story, it still touches on familiar themes. It just does them better than most. Trust, leadership, and responsibility are the major issues the characters have to deal with. The resulting philosophy is just as applicable to the real world as to the story, which helps ground the whole thing. There's nothing simple or easy about anything; the antagonist is someone you would love to hate, but it turns out not to be so straight-forward. That's not something you tend to see often, and it was masterfully done. A very in-depth and thought provoking story! I must get my friends to read it as well so I have someone to talk to about it. (I am also very greedy for more of the author/artist's work.)
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Elizabeth McCoy on Oct. 05, 2010 :
Well worth the price! This novella is where the author's abilities really shine, with the story unfolding at a good pace, the characters showing their complexities, and many (though not all) of the worldbuilding details laid out in interesting ways. There are also some extremely good lines, including one (about aliens and aunts; you'll know it when you see it) that I may yet copy so I can wave it at my friends.

"Second" is set up as a "man against nature" story, which quickly *also* becomes "man against man," with a dash of "man against himself." (Okay, Pelted aren't technically human, but I'm an English Major. Work with me here.) The primary antagonist has hints of depth -- which remain hints. There is no easy redemption here. There is no easy demonizing. The ways of dealing with the antagonist... can be right *and* wrong at the same time. I want to talk more about this, and about other parallels, but I don't want to spoil this, either. Suffice it to say that there is a lot of stuff that could be talked about -- it's layered.

All this *and* an uplifting ending? *Well* worth the price. My only quibble is that some of the various aliens and bioengineered Pelted could use internal art, but I'm just greedy for more of the author/artist's work.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

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