Aurora Campos's days of heroism are behind her. Deemed a shameful failure, she now captains Froward, a prison transport filled with criminals sent out to colonize new worlds for the Kingdom. Bryant Jones, technocrat and falsely accused 'murderer', is not going to let his future be taken away by this low-tech luddite of a woman and her backward society. He’s staging a break out from Aurora’s brig when the Froward is shot down around them. Cygnus Five is a failing colony. Starving convicts have taken over and found themselves a spaceship wrecker among the ruins of an abandoned alien city. The only way off-world is the Governor's launch, sealed in its silo beneath the convicts' headquarters. But as they team up to capture it, Aurora and Bryant discover love, institutional betrayal and the lurking remnants of a self-destructive alien civilization. Soon they have bigger problems on their hands than their own survival. When they arrived, Aurora thought she had only her crew to rescue. As it turns out, she has to save the whole world.
Dear Alex Beecroft, I have to admit that I was a little bit taken aback when I stumbled upon this new book from you, because it looked like m/f romantic storyline. I certainly did not mind reading m/f story from you, but I was curious whether you switched to m/f romance permanently and went to check out your blog. Apparently you wanted to write a sf trilogy with queer people saving the world and romance being present but as secondary storyline (paraphrase, but I believe I got the gist of it correctly). And I said to myself – sign me up – because this sounded just my cup of tea. Apparently in the next two books we will follow a lesbian couple (I am sure I know one part of the couple already) and asexual homo romantic couple (I think I know who one of the guys is, but not sure and have no idea who his love interest is/ will be).
So I hope this is clear, but in case it is not. Aurora’s ship transports convicts in space, even if the imagery invoked at first was for me from one of those historical fiction books where convicts are transported somewhere by sea. However we are reminded very fast that this is science fiction because of what Bryant is doing to take control of the ship and rescue himself. Let us just say that he is coming from the society which took technology on the very high level where people can change their appearance, modify their abilities. He also comes from the society with the highly invasive government which can pretty much kill their citizens any time they want because of certain technology they are injected with almost at birth (either at birth or very early in life). Bryant is very skilled with machinery of all kinds and he does not see much harm in bending people to his will when it will help his survival.
Bryant achieves a lot of what he tried to do, but not his main goal – because of what blurb tells you, outside forces rudely interrupt his plans and after crash when they are not sure at first who survived and who did not, he ends up together with the commander of his former jailers, former brilliant soldier and commander of her world, and now disgraced Aurora Campos whose job is to transport prisoners.
"She was an odd looking woman, somewhere between olive skinned beauty and prize-fighting troll. Past the first bloom of her youth - if she ever had one – she was well into hard-bitten military middle age. He'd heard of her, of course. Who hadn't?”
As an aside, to the best of my understanding Aurora comes from the society of I guess, modern crusaders? We will bring God’s glory to the unbelievers and if we have to completely subjugate or kill them, oh well.
In Aurora’s society, (once again, to the best of my understanding), because I suspect that the world will be more fleshed out in the next two books, technological advances that Bryant used to have at his fingertips (and some of them he still does and no, I do not want to describe them because I do not want to spoil it) are not accessible to most people, only to the techs? However, they do have space ships, so I don’t think they are unfamiliar with the technology. Aurora at some point describes most people at her planet as big families farming together. Aurora is a Christian, which I suppose means that Christianity was a dominant religion in the Kingdom (see once again how they reminded me of Crusaders, bringing everybody under God’s Kingsdom). I really liked Aurora; she seemed competent and deadly, but also seemed to be very honorable and sometimes even kind. More importantly when faced with the facts which challenged her preconceptions about how her society did things, she was not afraid to reexamine those preconceptions and sometimes even change her opinions. She definitely grew as a character throughout the book.
I thought that Bryant experienced the character growth too, and I was glad for that because to be quite honest my first reaction when I “met” him was not good. And to be quite honest, his standing in my eyes did not improve after couple of stunts he pulled in the middle of the book, but I did recognize clear potential for redemption and kept reading. Note that I am not lowering the grade for Bryant’s being an ass several times – his character arc made complete sense to me and this is not even a pure romance, but science fiction with romantic elements, so I am less inclined to expect likeable characters here than in the book which fully belongs in gender Romance. But I did think that Bryant ended up much more likeable than he began and I do enjoy when I get to watch the character change throughout the events of the book.
The auction was really good, the book was fast moving from the very beginning, but it was not so fast that reader could not catch a single breath. I thought it was paced really well. What can I say without spoilers? Well, they fight a lot and eventually find themselves a place to live which would still need to be defended from bigger aggression. ;-). While Bryant and Aurora seem to be pretty solid, overall story is not by all means completed.
I always repeat that I do not feel qualified to comment much on the writing style, but I want to say this. I have read most of Alex Beecroft’s books over the years and while I enjoyed her writing as I always do, it seemed quite different to me than in many of her other works. I guess it felt less flowery? And when I describe her writing as flowery, I truly do not mean anything less than complementary. I guess I should say it felt a bit less descriptive than usual.