Energetic, edgy sci-fi with a Game of Thrones bent.
Connell (Total Secession, 2012, etc.) returns to the stars after two earthbound sci-fi thrillers, but like his debut novel, Counterfeit Kings (2004), this one mines a rich vein of darker, grittier genre fiction. This novel moves at a breakneck pace with short chapters primed for quick reading. The central conflict is between Lansing—the current (and only) Grand Marksman of a union of professional big-game hunters known as the Orion Guild—and a disgraced former Grand Marksman named Bledsoe, who has been expelled from the same group for hunting human beings. When Lansing returns to Wildernesse, his home planet, to carry out an important mission, he’s teamed with volatile up-and-coming hunters who possess hazardous ambitions. His situation becomes even more dangerous when an unscrupulous rival organization arises, recruiting the fallen Bledsoe as a weapon against Lansing. The Orion Guild—which, due to its mission to control dangerous wildlife, is important to the expansion of human colonization of planets—holds to a strict code of behavior, but Bledsoe and his sponsors will stop at nothing to beat Lansing and the guild at their own game. Sex, violence and swearing are graphic and intrinsic to the story but not gratuitous. Nonetheless, squeamish readers may be turned off; others will enjoy the charged narrative. There are occasional bits of awkward dialogue—a character named Frog says, “Didn’t know your eyes were cockazoot, you cur. You only see in shades of gray, like your furry friends?”—but not enough to kill the engines on this fast-moving sci-fi adventure.
Explosive action in the far future.