A synthetic human stowaway and a hotheaded smuggler discover a dangerous shared secret in this sci-fi novel.
Caleb Shepperd was the youngest graduate of Vancouver’s Fleet Academy, but following orders didn’t agree with him. Discharged for misconduct after three years in Fleet Command, he’s now wanted in three star systems as a pirate and smuggler, captaining the Starscream Independent tug with Fran, a skilled pilot with a drug habit. Caleb is used to handling trouble, but he’s not expecting trouble like #1001 when he finds her stowed aboard his ship. She’s a synth, created by Chitec Corporation. Each synth contains “a human being long past their expiration date” somewhere inside. This synth shouldn’t exist—only 1,000 were made—and she has a question for Caleb she shouldn’t know how to ask: “What happened in twenty-three-sixty-eight?” That was five years ago, when Caleb was 19, and he doesn’t want to think about it. Caleb’s troubles worsen when his brother, Cmdr. Shepperd of the Fleet, boards his ship with a warning: “They’re gunning for you.” Caleb must dodge the Fleet, betrayals, danger, and his past, while #1001 confronts the fault in her system, the secret of her existence, and her hidden humanity—setting the stage for a showdown with Chitec in this series’ further volumes. DaCosta (See No Evil, 2016, etc.) writes a peppy, efficient story that interlaces action with salty banter and drama of several kinds: personal, sexual, and familial. Chitec and its CEO make excellent villains as well. Caleb, his ship, and DaCosta’s worldbuilding bear some resemblance to television’s Capt. Malcolm Reynolds and the Serenity in Firefly as well as the Syfy adventure series Killjoys, a resemblance that will please fans of either show. The nature of the mystery about how Caleb’s and #1001’s histories intertwine isn’t hard to see coming, but it does set important groundwork for the characters and future developments; DaCosta also has a few things up her sleeve readers might not guess.
This fast-paced first outing in a series offers layered characters and plenty of action.