Orbit | 2019 (13 June) | 507p | Review copy | Buy the book
When Sergeant Sanda Greeve’s gunship blew up in the devastating Battle of Dralee in space above the planet of Ada Prime, nobody thinks she can have survived. Only her brother, Biran, had any hope at all. Helpfully, Biran has just graduated as a Keeper, one of Prime System’s elite, one of its Protectorate. He has a voice that must be heard but what he has to say brings him into conflict with his fellow Keepers. What nobody on Ada Prime can possibly know is that Sanda’s evacuation pod survived and she has been rescued by an isolated vessel, whose AI, Bero, tells her a terrible tale, of a war lost, of millions slaughtered, an entire star system dead. Bero and Sanda are alone in the darkness of empty, black space.
And that is all I have to tell you of the story behind Velocity Weapon, a hugely entertaining space opera and the beginning, I believe, of a new series. This substantial novel tells a gloriously twisty tale. It is full of surprises and shocks and we spend much of it in the company of Sanda Greeve, a young woman, barely in one piece, who is suddenly faced with such a grim future. But this is a character who will not let anything get her down. Sanda is resilient, resourceful and hopeful – at least on the surface. She has much to contend with and what she discovers will shock us all.
Sanda is such a fun character! She feels very real. She’s fully developed and has so much sparkle about her. This is such a well-written novel. It’s witty throughout, occasionally light, and often punchy. And Sanda fills it with life. She’s military but there’s much more to her character than that. While Sanda is the most fully developed character in the novel, there are others who are worth our time, including her brother and, in another thread, a smuggler called Jules who is about to discover something she shouldn’t. But the other main character of the book that really leaves their mark is the ship AI Bero. We’re used to starship personalities but Megan O’Keefe has achieved the remarkable by created an original and memorable ship voice. Bero has so many human personality traits. I don’t want to say too much about him but his relationship with Sanda is key to the pleasure this novel gives.
Velocity Weapon is a novel packed with action and mystery. It is an adventure in space and the pages fly by. But there is something really special in its worldbuilding – I love the idea of the Keepers and the mysteries that they almost literally embody. The Prime System itself raises many questions in this first book which one hopes will receive attention in future novels. There is also a tantalising hint of something that happened on Earth in a time not too far from our own. There’s a sense of something incredible waiting for us somewhere among the stars.
Prime society is beautifully and subtly created and depicted. This is a place of rules and strong government or domination, a place of war and rivalry, but there is a surprising ease concerning social roles. Notions of gender, race and sexuality are fluid and subtly integrated into the novel.
Velocity Weapon is a complete and satisfying novel in its own right but it tantalises about what may lie in store. Megan O’Keefe has created a large universe with so much potential. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.