• The Good: Fun, action-packed, twisty-turny galaxy-spanning first contact story
  • The Bad: Limited characterization and development, even for the POV
  • The Literary: Thorough appendix with all the world-building that didn’t fit into this already lengthy novel

Kira Navarez and her team of xenobiologists, including her new fiance, are on an uncolonized planet for a routine terraforming survey. Then she falls into an unknown alien cave and finds a strange alien relic, which under normal circumstances would catapult her career and start a new field of study. But when Kira toes it with her boot, it climbs up her leg and into her suit before she passes out.

First contact is something every scientist dreams of, but Kira’s find sets off a chain reaction that only gets bigger and bigger, both for human civilization, and Kira herself. There’s a lot that goes on in this lengthy, action-packed space opera. Kira’s world gets turned completely upside down. The first part of the novel is tightly plotted with lots of surprises. She ends up on a ship with a rag-tag group, their pet pig, and a particularly lovable ship-mind. Together, and against all odds, they risk their lives to save humanity, multiple times over.

There is a lot to this story, and a lot to appreciate. But, for the length of the novel, the character arcs are disappointing. Kira has less personality than most of the secondary characters, and despite the tragedy handed to her early on, she doesn’t seem to grieve. Her quiet, introspective sections during FTL travel are less about overcoming any emotional flaw and more about unraveling the mystery of the alien relic. The secondary characters work better, but they’re stereotypes (including the gruff captain, the moody engineer, the young enthusiastic crew member, etc) without surprises.

Although the genre is technically scifi, none of the individual scifi elements feel new, consciousness-expanding, or provide a particular commentary on humanity’s future or present. Several of the major plot elements seem to be lifted from popular sources, like the Alien franchise and even a seminal Spiderman story-line. Ultimately, the brave underdog crew in an old ship, the capitalist corporation and play-by-the-book military, and the technologically advanced body-swapping alien species all amount to an enjoyable if somewhat familiar read.

Thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Highly recommended for fans of action thriller scifi stories in spaaaace!