Cold Welcome is not the first book in the Vatta Universe, so the new book has under it the foundation built by Vatta’s War. Yet it needs to be understandable to new readers without their having to buy the first five books. This is not meant to discourage anyone from buying the first five books if they want to (and there’s plenty of time to read them all before Cold Welcome comes out. Just sayin’.) But walking the knife-edge between confusing new readers with carry-over from the first five for which they have no reference, and annoying Vatta fans by explaining everything that might confuse a new reader…is tricky.
So tonight, as something is holding up the printer’s acquisition and installation of updated software (and it can’t be turned off or canceled, the directions said) here’s some background on the Vatta family. Not quite equivalent, I hope, to the introduction to the Bobbsey family that appeared in the first chapter of every Bobbsey Twins book I read as a six year old and quickly came to loathe. But it’s only once, and you can skip it without having the story interrupted.
The Vatta family settled on Slotter Key well after the planet had been colonized. They arrived on a stolen space ship stuffed full of brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins by the dozens…and money. No one asked where it had come from, which made their arrival less stressful. They owned their own spaceship (supposedly); they had money; they had skills; the planet wasn’t crowded at all–and thus they were more or less welcome. The Founders looked down their noses (as Founders usually will) but plenty of other immigrants had arrived by then, most with less wealth than the Vattas.
On Old Earth, our Earth, their ancestors had been merchants all along the Silk Road, plus some marrying in later. But predominantly, think Turkey to eastern India. Those arriving on Slotter Key were intelligent, hardworking, skillful traders, and intent on growing their investment. Other families of similar but not identical background were also on Slotter Key, natural allies and competitors both.
By the time of the first Vatta book, Trading in Danger, the Vatta business was headed by two brothers, Stavros and Gerard. The business by this time was a very large corporation; the family ran a fleet of cargo vessels hauling freight to many planets and independent space stations as well as on-planet transport (air, land, and sea) on Slotter Key (Vatta Transport Ltd), owned farms producing agricultural products for both local sale and export offworld, operated many other kinds of business as opportunity and profit suggested. Branch businesses were managed by a Vatta family member, with the result that there were Vattas on many worlds besides Slotter Key.
In other words, the central part of the Vatta family was rich and successful–and thus envied, and even in some place hated. Ky Vatta, the central character of Vatta’s War, is the daughter of Gerard (former CFO) and Stella Vatta, her cousin, is the daughter of Stavros (former CEO), her light coloring explained by her mother’s family (many of them were lighter and some were blond.) Or so everyone but Stella’s adoptive parents thought: she is actually the natural daughter of one of the clan’s most despised black sheep, Osman, who was kicked out of the clan, stole a Vatta ship, and proceeded to live out his nasty desires, including siring many many children on captive women. The family, once aware of this, tried to find the children and bring them into the family, but they found mostly girls. Stella’s birth-mother’s name is not known, nor is her location or fate.
So Ky. Ky at the start of the first book was about 22, within months of graduating with honors from Slotter Key’s military academy, first in her family to seek a military profession. But she made a mistake, bad judgment, that caused a political ruckus, and was forced to resign. Ky is relatively short, dark-skinned and dark-haired like her parents, compact, athletic, highly intelligent, with a natural talent for military science. Her family thinks of her as one of the “smart ones” but worries that she has a soft spot for people in trouble, a rescue complex…the mistake she made at the Academy confirms their suspicion. Otherwise she’s shown herself to have good judgment; she’s expected to do well. So the family reaction to her disgrace is to give her command of an small, old ship with an experienced crew, which she’s to take on its last trading route and then sell for scrap. They expect her to have an easy trip, maybe make a small profit, and then come back in a year or two, when the media attention on her has died down.
Then comes a sector wide attack on Vatta–destroying Ky’s home (and her family), Vatta’s headquarters on Slotter Key along with her uncle and many more, and blowing up Vatta ships both in open space and when docked at space stations. Simultaneously there’s an attack on the vast communications network run by InterStellar Communications, or ISC. For the first time Ky is alone, without recourse to her family and its influence and money (Vatta accounts are frozen pending claims for damages, etc.) Yet Ky is determined to resurrect Vatta and–as she sees more and more damage–convince others to join her in defending against what she sees as a dangerous enemy. Stella is more focused on restoring Vatta’s fortunes; Ky is certain that’s not enough.
By the end of Victory Conditions, the fifth book, Ky has defeated a fleet larger than the one she cobbled together, and the sociopath who started the attacks is dead. Not without damage and loss, certainly. She and Stella are getting along much better, with a few bumps still in the road.
Other notable Vattas in Vatta’s War: Helen Stamarkos Vatta, Stella’s legal mother, who has been caretaker CEO for Vatta interests on Slotter Key. She is the guardian of her twin grandchildren (their mother, Helen and Stavros’ oldest child, was killed in the attack.) Grace Lane Vatta, much older, who has a checkered past (barely hinted at in Vatta’s War) but who has spy skills and worked undercover for Vatta in that capacity. She also makes interesting fruitcakes, a way of transporting valuables secretly. Toby Vatta, a young cousin (4th cousin, probably) , the only survivor when the Vatta ship he was on was blown up in dock; he was then 14; rescued from police custody by Stella, he spends several years with her and contributes to her revival of Vatta’s business in a distant system (Cascadia, or more properly, the Moscoe Confederation.)