Hunting Party - Elizabeth Moon Otherwise known as: Fox hunting and horseback riding in space
Another capture from a scout to a used bookstore, I discovered Elizabeth Moon and was intrigued by the woman wielding a weapon on the front cover.
Captain Heris Serrano used to be an officer in the Regular Space Service--that is until she was forced to resign. Now the captain of Sweet Delight, the private space yacht of Lady Cecelia, Heris must deal with things she never expected: a badly disorganized ship, a seedy crew, a very ignorant owner, six spoiled brats, and learning how to ride a horse. But once the ship lands on the planet, four of the young guests decide to skip off to an island getaway--with terrible results.

The primary reason I was attracted to the book was its promise of having a strong female character in the military. This appeals to me, and I wanted to see how Moon treated this subject.
While I was reading I noticed the amount of detail, and it became obvious that Moon put a lot of time and effort into her research. She went to great lengths to establish the horse training and the fox hunting scenes. And her detail to the ship and how it is run is admirable.
Also, I enjoyed reading how Heris showed Ronnie a thing or two (that someone should have shown him a long time ago). I will be bold in saying that the best scene was between Heris and Ronnie when he barged on the bridge during jump (in which Heris whacks him across the face--good for you, Heris!).
Once the four youngsters crash land on the island, the action picks up a lot. Most people have probably read better "survival" stories (character(s) trapped on an island being hunted by something/someone), but this one has its fair share of heart-racing action and spine-tingling suspense. Definitely one of the highlights of the book.
Lastly, I give Moon credit for writing about a subject that most people would never have thought compatible with the science fiction universe. Moon's characters spend considerable time horseback riding or fox hunting, two activities that I have never seen in science fiction before.

One person described a particular class as being so boring that contemplating eating sand was more interesting. That is probably a perfect description of reading Hunting Party. The events are so dull, I could hardly read more than a few pages before stopping and wondering why I bothered to continue. The most exciting event in the first 100 pages occurs when Heris discovers a malfunction in the environmental controls that kills one of the environmental technicians but don't expect great action sequences, insightful character revelations, or mysteries to be unearthed. Up until Ronnie, George, Bubbles, and Raffaele run away from the hunt (I wish I could have!), most of the book had covered unimportant conversations, events, (seemingly endless) horseback riding, and "character" development (more on this aspect later) that really did not connect with what occurred in the last 150+ pages.
Another thing I did not like about this book was the subject matter. Heris is to take Cecelia and her young guests to a planet for horseback riding and fox hunting--"Old Earth" traditions. This, in my opinion, is a big no-no. Personally, when I see an author do something along these lines (i.e. hero/ine goes back in time to the era in which the author lives, hero/ine has hobby/interest not common in his/her time period), I feel that the author can't think of anything better so goes back into history, digs something up, and writes about a "highly advanced" civilization partaking of the old pastime. Just to give you an idea how ludicrous this seems to me: on a list of favorite pastimes today, how high does gladiator events rank? Chariot races? When was the last time you hiked on down to watch a dog fight? I don't know about you, but these aren't my hobbies and never will be.
Besides the aforementioned, characters are colorless, clichéd, or downright boring. Heris Serrano is about as interesting as an empty roll of toilet paper. Her comments about life are so bland that I began to wonder if she were a robot. Moon attempts to make Heris seem more human by having her laugh or be upset, but after over 100 pages in which Heris is described most by the word "military" all descriptions of her acting otherwise come across flat. And then, once the youngsters crash on the planet, Heris seems to be unimportant and thrown in for some reason that only the author knows. Cecelia attempts to defy the old lady stereotype on one hand (hating the gaudy decorations of her yacht and enjoying the freedom of horseback riding) but is so burdened by it on the other (being persnickety, not wanting to talk with the young guests, being obsessed with horses to the point of comparing everything--I mean, everything--with horses). Then there's Ronnie, George, Raffaele, Bubbles, and Buttons (who came up with these stupid names after all? They sound more like pets than children) whose characters are aptly described by the words "spoiled rich brat" and have personalities as mindless, lame, and irritating with a capital "I". I wasn't fond of Heris or Cecelia, but I never wanted to chuck them out of the nearest airlock like I did with Ronnie and his friends (no matter how much I wished, Heris never did chuck the little mongrels). Not even when Ronnie, George, Raffaele, and Bubbles crash on the planet did I muster sympathy for these pathetic excuses of humans (and how do they get so comfortable hauling weapons when just days before they are giggling over the opposite sex?).
Character interactions were laughable. Heris and Cecelia's interactions in the beginning were good (almost as if each was toying and prying delicately into the other without revealing much of herself); it was after Heris took "horseback riding" lessons on the simulator (cue eye roll) that their relationship deteriorated to corny auntie-niece (btw, how does a woman trained in a simulator so effortlessly transfer to the real thing? Even pilots need real flight time to hone their skills). The scenes between Ronnie and his aunt were equally stereotyped ("It's not fair" is a favorite line of--you guessed it--Ronnie). Moon certainly did not recreate the wheel with the other interactions in the book (namely Ronnie and friends and Ronnie and Heris) and how she threw Heris' arch-nemesis in the book is plum out of a middle school book (how convenient that the admiral likes to hunt on the same planet that Heris is on--aren't there millions of planets in the galaxy?).
Lastly, Moon sometimes wrote something in a confusing manner so that I would have to reread several times, read ahead, and then go back and reread again in order to figure out what was being said.

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
Typical da**, he**, and sh**.
Ronnie and his friends are almost always surrounded by copious inferred sexual situations (including the overt mention of why Ronnie is stuck on his aunt's ship). One of the crew mates mentions her lover. Heris alludes to a being unwilling to have a (sexual) relationship.
A crewmember is killed from exposure to a high concentration of hydrogen sulfide (yucky stuff, if you are interested). A major part of the plot involves illegal hunting, in which people die. Several characters (major and minor) are shot and killed.

Zzzzz...Huh? Oh, you woke me (I feel asleep while recalling this book).
There is one word to describe this book: Boring. I was really excited to read this book (science fiction, strong female character, military background), but after only 40 pages, I began to contemplate picking up something better. I still can't believe how Moon took this book and filled it to the brim with endless pages on fox hunting, Heris learning how to ride a simulator (about as exciting as reading about people playing video games!), and the terrible, horrible, clichéd "young" people. If it weren't for the fairly interesting story (that is almost 180 degrees different from the one set up in the first 175 pages), I would have rated this book 1 star. I thought about trying the others in this series, but if they are anywhere near this drenched in boring "Old Earth" pastimes with no scent of science fiction and action until halfway through, then I will have to skip the rest in this series. Maybe one of Moon's other series is better...