Adin and Shennan work on a series of related but smaller missions that run the gamut of security to spy work, creating more of a slow burn than a thrill ride. This planet-hopping military mission spree is sure to tickle any intellectual’s brain stem. From how Adin’s and Shennan’s dual nature affects their life and abilities, to themes of colonization, social manipulation, and evolution, there’s a lot to chew on. A lot of this is explained through scientific jargon. While this might titillate some, it may dull the emotional impact for others. Additionally, action scenes focus slightly more on strategy than emotion or sensory detail, giving the harrowing bouts with death an almost video-game quality. Sometimes, events aren’t told as they occur and are instead casually revealed after, which can lead to some confusion and detachment.
But readers will be pulled right past those potential barriers into Sullivan’s frank and realistic portrayals of trauma and duty. The novel explores the hard calls people make to protect the whole, even if they have to sacrifice their minds, bodies, and relationships. And this follows through right to the end: there are no easy answers, no easy-to-swallow morals to find here. Adin and Shennan are put through the wringer and go back for more. They’re complicated and broken, torn between peace and violence’s role in it. Their relationships are messy as well, and they must do unspeakable things for the same people who reject them for it. This thought-provoking military sci-fi demands, and rewards, anyone’s full attention.
Takeaway: Somewhat heady but pulling no emotional punches, this sci-fi space mission will prompt readers to ponder big moral questions.
Great for fans of: John Steakley’s Armor, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A