A young racer enters a competition to save his planet in this sci-fi debut.
In 3834, the planets of the anarchic Milky Way Galaxy are in constant danger of war and invasion from their neighbors. The only strategy to guarantee planetary safety is to come under the shield of the Coalition Protectors of Peace, and the only way to accomplish that is to finish first in the yearly Grand Battle. The Grand Battle is a race, where pilots from different planets ride their battle jets into a vortex, attempting to avoid its obstacles and each other’s firepower. Sashi Oon, the sponsor of her two-planet system, assumes the responsibility for drafting the racer with the best chance of winning, and guiding him through the multi-tiered competition. Only recently awoken from a coma, and still bearing the scars of a recent invasion of her home worlds by the lava soldiers of Maelae, Sashi feels unsure whether she is equal to the task. Against conventional wisdom, she chooses Rev Arden, a young and untested pilot from Earth with whom she has a past. With the help of a motley group of strivers from across the galaxy, Sashi and Rev must beat the odds, save their home worlds, and defeat the Maelae racer that seems intent on eliminating Rev in the Grand Battle. Felando has created a rich, complex universe that immediately captivates the reader, balancing the stakes of the race against the celebrity of the participants, the politics of various planets, the egos of journalists, and the inescapable slogans of advertisers. The author, a master of slogans himself, creates earwigs that stick in the reader’s head, from the tag line of the race (“Win the race. Save your planet.”) to the Maelae’s terrifying motto (“Raw material, you will die!”). While Felando certainly borrows from other sci-fi works and franchises, the novel manages to feel fresh and compelling, with an incisive wit and an imaginative eye. Accompanied by original chapter illustrations, the book offers a universe to which readers will surely wish to return.
A fun and fast-paced space opera.