I picked this one up in Waterstones while spending some book tokens, beguiled by the helmeted girl on the cover.
The Earth is cold, dead and divided. The rich hide away from reality while the rest will do anything to survive. Humanity have only one hope: reaching a habitable planet. But getting there means travelling in large numbers through alien-held space, something that’s politically nearly impossible. Yet for some, fighting their way through space is just a way of life . . .
Jinnifer Blue is a rich girl on the run. An expert pilot, she apprehends criminals on behalf of the government and keeps her illegal genetic modifications a closely guarded secret. But when a particularly dangerous job goes south, leaving her stranded on a prison ship with one of the most ruthless criminals in the galaxy, Jinn realises that the rich and the powerful are hiding more than she’d ever guessed. Now she must decide if she can trust her co-prisoner – because once they discover what the prison ship is hiding, she definitely can’t trust anyone else . . .
I really like the premise that as Earth is increasingly inhabitable, humanity now has no choice but to head for the stars – only the aliens surrounding us aren’t all that impressed. Though some species have specific uses for some of us – and not in a good way… However I do feel O’Reilly missed a bit of a trick, here. Given the desperate straits Earth is in, the decisions taken at the highest level could be justifiable if you look at the numbers involved. For me, there was a problem with the antagonist – I just wish she wasn’t so unremittingly unpleasant as I think there is a real moral dilemma that O’Reilly has closed down by providing a wholly evil antagonist to represent the hard choice that may need to be made. However, this is the first book in the series and perhaps this aspect of the story is more thoroughly explored in the sequel – I do hope so.
I enjoyed Jinn, who is an appealing protagonist with a tricky past. This gives her edges and a certain toughness, which I liked. I found the grimness of an existence where everyone has to work to pay off their modifications nicely realistic, given it is clearly capitalism that has powered humanity’s existence in space. O’Reilly writes action well, although I did find a couple of the jumps in narrative time at the start of the book a little jarring and wondered whether it would have been more satisfactory if we had started the book in 2207, leaving the main characters to fill in what happened twenty years earlier.
However, once the book got going, I stayed up way later than I’d intended to discover what happens next – O’Reilly is certainly good at writing a page-turner. There was plenty of action, alongside the political manoeuvring and this detailed world was effectively depicted without loss of pace. The romance worked well, helping to power the story along although it wasn’t the main element. Do be warned, though, there are a couple of explicit sex scenes.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I’m hoping to be able to get hold of the second book when it comes out as this dark, difficult problem facing Earth and its hapless inhabitants has got me wondering what will happen next… Recommended for fans of character-led space opera.