In this debut sci-fi novel, a military officer wanted for murder in the early 23rd century tries to prevent a war between human colonies.
Lt. Gen. Bastien Lyons is hiding in New Paris, the human colony on post-World War III Earth. After defying an order that would have resulted in the deaths of innocents, Bastien resisted arrest and killed five men in self-defense. But the individuals who finally capture him don’t take him to the Martian colony, Port Sydney, where his superior, Gen. Crone, awaits. Bastien instead is the prisoner of New Paris’ Queen Marie Dubois. She attained her royal title by killing her father, and now Marie wants to use Bastien to assassinate her elusive sister, Belle, the throne’s rightful heir. Not handing over Bastien—a wanted criminal—to Crone violates the colonies’ treaty, which also includes Nippon One on Earth’s moon. The breach could ignite a war with Port Sydney, which is exactly what Marie wants. When Belle gets wind of her potential assassin, she intends to turn Bastien against Marie, primarily to maintain peace between the colonies. But Cube, a humanoid robot Crone sends to hunt Bastien, is a 7-foot-tall snag in everyone’s plans, and war may be unavoidable. In this first installment of a trilogy, Asthana deftly manages multiple characters in a sci-fi-flavored espionage story. Motivations, for example, make sense, particularly the reasons both sisters use Bastien rather than simply attacking each other. Alternating perspectives showcase superb characters, with Marie and Cube as standouts. Cube attempts to comprehend human feelings through music while its own emotions appear as data files (“>EMOTION = frustration.dat”). Marie is a metal-tentacled cyborg who, in her opening scene, kills and cannibalizes her lover. Although this book is a quick read, the author packs the narrative with plot developments: shifting alliances, shocking deaths, and scenes unfolding on all three colonies. At least one of those deaths is disappointing, but that won’t likely dampen readers’ expectations for the sequel.
Extraordinary characters steer a taut, rousing futuristic tale.