I plucked this one off the shelves because I liked the look of the cover – and it is published by Angry Robot, whose books often appeal to me if I’m in the mood for a foot-to-the-floor adventure.
Labour organizer Padma Mehta is on the edge of space and the edge of burnout. All she wants is to buy out a little rum distillery and retire, but she’s supposed to recruit 500 people to the Union before they’ll let her. She’s only thirty-three short, so when a small-time con artist tells her forty people are ready to tumble down the space elevator she checks it out… And that’s when her problems really begin…
I’ve slightly tweaked the rather chatty blurb, but hopefully you get the idea. This is a world where oil has gone and the fuel that now powers the galaxy is derived from sugar cane. This small scruffy outpost grows the stuff in industrial quantities and is sufficiently off the beaten track that a number of folks fleeing the encompassing control of the Big Three – the huge cartels that people are born into and become indentured to – are able to eke out a humble living while being free. However, once those new recruits hit the planet surface, events and Padma’s gritted bloody-mindedness rolls this story forward into a gathering whirlwind of events that doesn’t let up until the last page.
Padma is a force of nature. She just never admits defeat and while there are times when I find I am slightly sceptical that young heroines would be in a position of such responsibility to be at the hub of events powering a book forward, this isn’t the case with Padma. In fact, I’m slightly surprised she isn’t running the Universe. She is a grade-A hustler, with a motor-mouth that could sell rainy days to the Brits and a sharp eye for people’s soft spots. That would make her unbearable if she, too, didn’t have her vulnerabilities – which she does, courtesy of a nightmarish long-haul journey in hibernation, when the hibernating didn’t go quite right… Alongside Padma are a colourful cast of misfits and big personalities, some who are her allies while a fair number are ranged against her – Padma tends to collect a fair number of enemies.
Writing strong characters is one of Rakunas’s strengths – as is depicting a grungy, over-industrialised world where people are trying to rub along as best they can. While the action and non-stop adventure is clearly escapist fun, the underlying themes of community, standing up to injustice and the damage inflicted when the profit line rules is a very familiar message, which bears repeating – kudos to Rakunas for doing so without coming over preachy or ranting about it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining colony world adventure and it comes highly recommended for fans of well-told, high-octane science fiction action tales.