Series: Keiko (#1)
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2015
All Ichabod Drift wants to do is get rich, and now he has the ship, the crew, and the job to help him achieve that dream. But this job isn’t all it seems, and neither are any of his crew. Everyone has their secrets, and his are about to be brought screaming into the light . . .
Fun fact: I have two copies of this book. The first one I bought from a Smith’s at a train station a few years ago, and only when I started reading it weeks later did I find that all the pages except the first ten were bound in reverse order. An interesting puzzle, but not really the sort of book you can read. So I went out, bought a second copy (checking the pages this time) and very much enjoyed it. It wasn’t until last Christmas that I finally laid my grubby little hands on the other two thirds of the trilogy, so it seems fitting that i reread book one before diving into new experiences.
These days, Mike brooks is best known for his work in the world of Warhammer 40,000, but years before all that, he wrote this series of space adventures. With its crew of misfits and criminals hurtling around space running dubious cargo for even more dubious employers, Keiko wears its Firefly inspiration on its sleeve. But while that cult classic paid lip service to a solar system colonised by a Chinese-speaking humanity, Keiko goes all-in on creating a richly textured and genuinely diverse vision of the future. Lead character Drift is Latino, and his crew includes men and women from European, Chinese, and Maori extraction. But these backgrounds are only a part of their identity, and no one is wholly consumed by their cultural origin, however important it may be to them.
In all honesty, Dark Run isn’t a terribly original novel. What it is, however, is an example of how to do everything right. The characters are archetypes rather than stereotypes, and if the plot is somewhat by the numbers, the twists and developments all land in a satisfying manner. There aren’t many surprises here, but it has a certain charm about it. The action and intrigue complement each other wonderfully, and there’s barely a slow moment in the whole book. Aside from the overall excellent pacing, Brooks clearly knows how to write an action sequence, and everything from brawls, to chases, to gunfights burst off the page with as much frequency as they pop up in the text.
The world Brooks sets up here is drawn in broad strokes (except for clubs and bars, which are realised in gritty detail), but there’s a lot to like it. Unusually for this sort of space-hopping space opera, a large section takes place on Earth, where Brooks is one of the few authors I’ve seen not to assume a united future for humanity. International politics is a key feature here, some of it exported to the stars, but all of it still affecting those at home. Future novels look like they’ll be showing more of the universe, so let’s see where this is going.
Dark Run doesn’t seek to break the box in many ways, but it does make full use of the space it has, and promises to stretch a little further given the chance. And a chance is exactly what I’m going to give it.