Author: Hugh Howey
Pages: 504 (hardcover)
Selected By: Lady Esbe
“When Molly gets kicked out of the Naval Academy, she loses more than just another home, she loses the only two things that truly matter: flying in space and her training partner, Cole. A dull future seems to await, until a marvelous discovery changes everything: her father’s old starship, missing for a decade, turns up halfway across the galaxy. Its retrieval launches Molly and Cole on the adventure of a lifetime, one that will have lasting consequences for themselves and billions of others. What starts off as a simple quest to reconnect with her past ends up forging a new future, and the forgotten family she hoped to uncover becomes one she never foresaw: a band of alien misfits and runaways – the crew of the starship Parsona.” – from the Goodreads summary.
Lady Esbe’s Review
As usual, Hugh Howey makes a strong showing. While I couldn’t read every day, the days I read, I found myself reading in one hundred plus pages in a single reading. I love how he finds the correct mix of drama, action and the ability to build the story as it goes. I find myself constantly asking probing questions while reading. Is Molly being set up by her mentor/guardian? How much more astray can this small party go on adventure? Howey creates various worlds and environments that highlights the best and the worst of each world that keeps your mind whirling as you travel from planet to planet.
For once, I’m not completely annoyed by the female lead in the book. Molly is self-assured with a healthy amount of uncertainty without so much “teenage angst” we get in many books. When we first meet her, she is in a very real battle simulation that had me questioning what the hell just happened. She is unceremoniously drummed out of the Naval Academy and dropped into a civilian academy despite her aptitude of being a pilot. Once approached to reclaim the Parsona, her missing (presumed dead) father’s civilian space ship with the assistance of her former classmate and would be suitor, Cole and a Navy appointed chaperone on a fairly dingy and dirty planet of Palan. The adventure begins here and doesn’t stop, even upon their arrival back on Earth.
Palan represents what we think of third world countries as dirty, treacherous and its inhabitants range from pitiful to unscrupulous. What was originally a simple plan become relatively complicated rather quickly upon Cole and Molly’s arrival there. They find a planet that is reminiscent of the slums of Earth. However, the cleansing rain each month, wipes away all the filth, stagnation and troubles of each of it’s inhabitants. Unfortunately, this doesn’t negate that there are those who are destitute. It also does not bode well that a small but powerful portion of the population are pirates. We are introduced to Walter, a Palan who helps Cole and Molly escape the Palan prison system after they are set up as criminals who don’t get a trial but a definitive death sentence. Walter’s zeal for organization and video games border on OCD and is helpful at the same time. However, his true gift is that his species is able to sniff out lies of “foreigners”. I’m sure the Native Americans or any country that becomes subjugated or compromised by the treachery of another country would have loved to have this sixth sense.
After the daring escape of the newly formed trio we are taken to another world, Glemot, by chance. The intended target of an abandoned Naval way station is within their grasp until they crash on Glemot. Glemot is the picture of beauty with it’s verdant greenery. The people of Glemot made me picture grizzly bears walking on hind legs, yet extremely intelligent. They are able to learn, take technology they have not seen before and improve upon it tenfold. However, despite the feeling of being at peace, there are disturbing undertones in their culture that echoed Nazis in that they were seeking to control technology, population and the elements of the population that are allowed to survive. Each of their inhabitants are named after famous scientist and thinkers. We are introduced to their newest crew member, Edison. Edison is equipped to handle all the crews mechanical and technological needs. However, even with the beauty that surrounds it, there is also a raging civil war that is brought to an abrupt halt to the knowledge of Edison with the unsuspecting three member crew that increases by one at this point.
With the expansion of the crew, new conundrums present itself. Molly and her merry band of misfits are still on the run and do not know who to trust, while they strongly distrust the authorities. At the behest of Cole, they set out to arm the Parsona with some defense mechanisms and a few offensive countermeasures. This brings us to the “worlds” of Darrin I and II. Each have been reduced to rubble because of their lovely arms trade system created a very brief but destructive war. After escaping the debris of what is left of Darrin I, we find that the arms traders act like ambulance chasing personal injury attorney’s. At the start of the scene, I was mortified and thinking, “man, what fresh hell is this” and then found myself laughing when you realize that they were being pursued to be wooed by the arms dealers. Again more treachery ensues that leads us to the ultimate betrayal at the end of the story, but pushes us on to the sequel.
I enjoyed that Howey didn’t make any one character an absolute in either a positive or a negative trait. While I found Walter to be shifty, I trusted his sense of people and vigor for which he performed his new duties. I enjoyed that Edison was so cerebral, appeared to be a gentle giant, but when the needs arises, he was who you wanted in your corner. We are also introduced to Anlyn, who is a Drenard, the species of beings that have been at war with humans since most of Cole and Molly’s life. While we are taught to fear them at the beginning of the book, Anlyn has been subjugated and is a very talented pilot who is a slave of one of the arm’s traders. While she is extremely talented, she so abused, that she is in more need of protection than to be feared. Cole is a steadfast friend, who is strong in his convictions even when you want to punch him for the error of his ways at times. Finally, Molly. As I stated to begin with, she is a great female lead in this book. Her moments of angst are out of moral convictions for causing the destruction of a planet or deaths of people she would rather not have harmed. However, when push comes to shove, she acts. I can genuinely say, even characters that I don’t particularly care for are crafted in just a way to make you empathize with them just enough to push you onward in the story.
I’m looking forward to the remaining installments of this series, especially after I finish our October selection.
Esbe read the Kindle version of this book.