Derelict (Halcyone Space #1)
To most people, Halcyone is a derelict ship, relic of a bygone war, taking up space in the docks of Daedalus Station. To Ro, it might mean freedom from her father, if she can restore it well enough to impress the University boards. To Micah, it was, until lately, his secret lab, the place where he would find a way to break the cartel’s monopoly on medicinal marijuana. To brothers Jem and Barre, it's the wrong place, wrong time -- or maybe the right one, an escape from Barre’s impending forced brain surgery at the hands of their perfectionist parents.
An odd complaint from an odd reader: the flat, unvaried use of simple past tense robs the prose of the nuance and precision that some well-placed past perfect could add.
The intended subtext also sheds its sub a bit annoyingly often, with characters repeatedly stating out loud how important it is for them all to reject the mistakes of their parents and establish who they are independent of their last names, and hey, what a lot they all have in common! Then there’s the trouble of many of the critical adventure moments coming in the form of hacking, which is, for the most part, as crowd-pleasing as it sounds.
A group of very believably competent and determined teenage characters. Ro is the brusque, rough-around-the-edges, shell-like-a-tank-around-a-gooey-center type, for reasons that are understandable and plainly shown, and she has the skills to get away with it most of the time, but not too often. The whole accidental crew of the Halcyone hangs in the true-to-life adolescent in between, ready to take charge of their lives but doomed to flounder through the mistakes of inexperience that can only be cured by said floundering and mistakes. It’s the most terrifying state to exist in on a ship where mistakes mean explosive decompression, drifting for eternity through space, or execution by the mob, and that's why it works so well.
The antagonistic adults are not simply unreasonable, tyrannical, and condescending, as they might be in a more simplistic narrative, but deeply involved in their own fleshed-out agendas, and there are decent adults to be found too, just doing their jobs as best they can.
Futuristic aesthetics are well established but unobtrusive. The story is not an excuse for the author to wax on about how these future inventions are different, or about the minutiae of the history of a dozen alien worlds, but nor is it told in front of a verbal green screen that might as well be displaying a cafe in San Francisco as an industrial corridor through an endless star field. This future is lived-in and commonplace to its inhabitants but visible to us.
Shifting third person perspective is particularly effective here, for both scene setting and the story at hand. Rather than causing the plot slowdown that often comes with the juggling of several locations and subplots, it allows for special attention to each character within a very tight, interlocking situation, even when some of them are separated by the vacuum of space.
The surprising heart of the story comes in the form of Ro and Nomi, the beautiful and gregarious comms officer. Instead of having their first date as planned, the two women end up spending the duration of the book trying to find each other, and the result is stunningly affecting for a couple who have only about three scenes together.
Definitely worth a read for fans of grungy space opera and prickly, take-charge heroines.
Agree? Disagree? Comments are always welcome (just keep it civil, folks)!
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