I’ve had a slump when it comes to high-tech, space-shippy sci-fi for a few… years. But between Elizabeth Bear’s Ancestral Night and this book, I think I’m a reborn spaceship lover??
Book: Velocity Weapon by Megan E O’Keefe
Read before: No
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge from Orbit Books. All opinions my own.
We have three points of view here: Sanda, a space pilot who’s woken up on an unfamiliar ship after being wiped out in a huge battle; Biran, her younger brother, a new government official who’s going to do his damnedest to bring her home; and Jules, a member of a criminal gang who discover something unusual on one of their heists… I didn’t love the third point of view as much, but this was solely because I was so invested in Sanda and Biran’s viewpoints. Jules’s story would have captured me on its own – I love a good heist going wrong! – but I was just too eager to get back to find out what was going on in the other thread. I think that this will probably tie in more as the series progresses, and I can’t wait to see her get entangled with our other MCs.
To come back to the main thread of the story, then, we see the same event and how it shapes two very different people in very different ways. Sanda’s was my favourite story – waking up in a bafflingly alien ship is very John Crichton, and Farscape is my all-time ultimate sci-fi love, so that instantly endeared her to me. I also love a chatty AI/sentient spaceship, and The Light of Berossus (Bero for short!) is no exception. He was actually one of the most compelling characters, and really shone a light on the dark effects of the war Sanda has been fighting in. I loved Sanda, too, and found her drive, her resourcefulness and her need to protect her family very much up my street. This is a properly badass space chick with a very human side (again, ringing any Farscape bells?!) and I adored her. I just wanted her to get home safely. Her relationship with Bero is amazing – I can’t spoil it for you, but please someone read this and let me know what you thought so I can yell about it at you!!
Biran, her younger brother, was also an excellent character. Academic, driven, but forced to try to balance his loyalty to his family with his loyalty to a dishonest government, which makes for some great internal struggles, and also some really interesting actions. He probably changes the most over the course of the story, really growing up into a man. The politics here are on a galactic scale, but having Biran’s POV to tie us to ‘home’ balances Sanda’s adrift-ness very nicely. I was seriously impressed at how well this book expresses huge important things in tiny character moments – this is what makes sci-fi good for me. I have nothing against spaceships and robots and tech, but if you sacrifice those moments of human experience in favour of shiny battle moments or cool robotics, then you suck the heart out of a book. Velocity Weapon has heart in bucketloads. It’s the perfect kind of sci-fi for me.
I’m super keen to read the next book in the series, because once I hit the 3/4 mark, I was barely breathing as I raced through! There’s way too much going on for me to dare to tell you any more than the basic set up, but if you’re a fan of thoughtful, human, intense sci-fi with messy people and messier politics, then you’ll love this. There’s action, secrets, a little romance, betrayal, interesting medical tech, space walks, AI humour… The only thing it’s missing is cats. It’s fantastic. Five out of five cats.