Velocity Weapon, The Protectorate #1
by Megan E. O'Keefe
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted May 21, 2019
I received an e-ARC of this title from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Velocity Weapon, the first title in a series with the collective name of The Protectorate, will be released in three weeks, June 11, 2019. It is science fiction, verging on space opera. Ms. O'Keefe's earlier books, none of which I have read, are steampunk fantasy. It boasts an intricate plot and fast pace, with quite a few suprising twists along the way. My only criticisms would be minor, nothing that hinders the flow of the story to any extent.
Ada Prime is but one of many stations maintained across the galaxy by the Protectorate, all served by their proprietary transfer stations, known as Casamir Gates. Ada Prime is at war with another planet within its binary system. The Protectorate does not share its technological secrets with non-Prime worlds, although it does allow others to utilize its gates to transfer goods and people from system to system. Icarion is not satisfied with that. They are intent on forcing the knowledge from the Protectorate, but even if they are not successful, they are also hard at work developing faster propulsion systems for their own ships so they can bypass the gates. In the first chapter we meet Prime Gunnery Sergeant Sanda Greeve, as she wakes from an evacuation pod on the otherwise unmanned Icarion ship The Light of Berossus. The ship's AI, which prefers to be addressed as Bero, informs her the war is over, and that it has been 230 years since the Battle of Dralee.
Flashback to Prime Year 3541, to the graduation day of Sanda's younger brother Biran from Keeper Academy. Keepers protect the secrets of Prime's technologies. The upper echelon of Keepers, sort of like our military's Chiefs of Staff, are the Protectorate. During the commencement ceremony word comes of the Icarion attack near the moon Dralee. Over the chaotic weeks and months that follow, mainly from his tireless efforts to gain information on the status of his sister, Biran maneuvers himself into the position of Speaker, liason between the Protectorate and the general population. He has made mistakes, but is supported by a mentor, Protector Lavaux, who emigrated from another system, is independently wealthy, and tends to act independently as well. Biran wants to believe his sister is still alive, but even if not he thinks it likely other of their troops could be recoverable in their evacuation pods around Dralee. Lavaux has his own ship, and he recruits Biran and several other of the Protectorate to investigate, although it becomes clear he has an agenda of his own. The other Protectors want a full evacuation of Ada Prime and Keep Station, as well as the destruction of the Casamir Gate, since they fear a massive new weapon Icarion has developed, known as the Fibon Protocol, but the evacuation is forestalled by Lavaux's actions. Chapters alternate between the two timelines as Sanda works to build a rapport with Bero, and the earlier efforts of Biran to find her.
There are two other narrative tracks. One is set on Earth in an unspecified year in our future, as Alexandra Halston, owner and CEO of Prime Inventive, pursues the technology that will create the first Casamir Gate in orbit of Pluto's moon Charon. The successful completion of that project is designated the beginning of Prime Year One. The other scenario is on the planet Atrux, which at least at the beginning is concurrent with the events on Ada Prime in Year 3541. In Prime Year 3771, Bero and Sanda decide they need to leave the devastated system and try to make it to Atrux utilizing Bero's 8%-of-c drive. In order for her to survive that multiple years journey they need to salvage other evacuation pods which will enable her to periodically go into cold-sleep. On Atrux, Juliella 'Jules' Vicenza and her cohort of thieves break into an abandoned building because they have word it may be a stash house for the sought-after drug wraith. They do find wraith, but are also surprised to stumble upon a hidden lab that is evidently being used for something completely different, possibly black-market Keeper technology. Later, Jules and one of her gang are on the run from shadowy forces they identify as Keeper Guardcore, but without insignia, further reinforcing the notion of a covert operation.
To say much more would be to risk spoilers. I will say that the events on Atrux and Bero's decision to go there made me wonder what the connection might be. I began to suspect Bero had not been completely truthful to Sanda, that it also had an ulterior motive. She was challenged by the fact that within the Prime sphere AIs had been limited, not allowed to develop a personality matrix, so it takes a while for her to establish a bond, all the while I was thinking that wasn't such a good idea. I also had a theory that someone had altered Casamir Gate technology to not only be a trans-spatial portal, but a time portal as well, but the eventual reveal was quite different. As to the minor criticisms, I'm well aware of the changing use of aphorisms, figures of speech, just within my own lifetime. Several times current common phrases were used, which I seriously doubt would still be around 3000 years later, especially in solar systems light years from Earth. Another is the not so subtle similarities between the structure of Prime society to current concerns of the overreach of Amazon Prime. Alexandra Halston is not Jeff Bezos, but the parallels are unmistakable, and I doubt they're coincidental. Overall, I rate this 4 out of 5 stars. It's recommended, due to several interesting characters, the relentless pace, and the unexpected twists and turns of the plot. I'll want to continue the story because this ended with multiple major cliffhangers. That's the main reason I titled this page "protectorate" rather than the title of this book. No word yet on a second book, but I'll be on the lookout for it.
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