Capt. Ichabod Drift and his ragtag crew on the starship Keiko are hired by the ruthless Nicolas Kelsier, politician-turned-terrorist, to smuggle sensitive contraband onto Old Earth, but they get two-timed in a nuclear double-bluff that leaves them with only one option: deliver vengeance to Kelsier or be killed.
Brooks’ debut novel is an unabashedly derivative, cliché-driven space Western, complete with down-and-out dive bars, interstellar intrigue, high-stake gambles, and a crew with secret and checkered pasts—“seven no hopers in a rust bucket.” They're a familiar bunch of rebels straight out of the Marvel universe, Firefly, or Star Wars: fast-talking, Han Solo–like Mexican Capt. Drift, a "thief-cum-smuggler-cum-merchant-cum-bounty-hunter-cum-goodness-knows-what-else”; his crack-shot African-American sidekick, Tamara Rourke; Maori Apirana “Big A” Wahawaha; Dutchman and mostly muscle Micah van Schaken; the Chinese Chang siblings, pilot and mechanic Jia and Kuai; and one white-girl hacker, Jenna McIlroy. In a future resembling Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep but with far less nuance, Drift and his crew are wry, endearing survivors. Brooks’ work eschews subtlety; threadbare lines like “his secret had been buried in his heart like a worm in an apple” or “his eyes felt like they were made of dust” litter the narrative. While there are some inventive flourishes like the “electat, a neurally activated subdermal tattoo,” or the Circuit Cult, “an organization that championed cybernetic replacements over the flesh and blood they viewed as inherently flawed,” overall Brooks has concocted a conventional, undemanding space opera full of fast talk, action, and gratuitous violence.
Brooks delivers a predictable, formulaic, old-fashioned space Western peopled with likable, flawed characters who gallop across an entertaining page-turner, pausing infrequently for either emotion or depth.