BOOK REVIEW: Outpost

outpost

Outpost: Donovan, Book One by W. Michael Gear (SF Novel, 2018).

This action-packed SF novel is based on the planet Donovan (named for the first explorer to die there). It’s the opening book of a trilogy and decently complete unto itself. In any case, the next two in the series are also available by now. Donovan is an insanely dangerous, though mineral-rich world orbiting Capella. A 30-year-old colony there is struggling to survive on its own, since in addition to the wild world’s formidable array of predatory animals and plants (!) they haven’t seen a new supply ship from Earth in years.

The locals don’t know that a series of such ships have disappeared en route. It could have something to do with the mega-complex computer calculations that enable faster-than-light travel via alternate universe. Or not. Nobody even quite understands how the engines ‘invert’ space.

Unknown to them, even the last ship to actually reach them vanished on its return trip. Now the all-powerful Corporation, which dominates every phase of life in our Solar System, has sent one last ship to investigate and this one makes it.

Kalico Aguila, a ruthlessly ambitious Corporation official, is aboard the Turalon, along with hundreds of new settlers and a company of Marines to enforce Corporate control. The three people who’ve been running the closest thing to a government Donovan has had the last several years come into immediate conflict with these new arrivals.

Foremost among the local leaders is Talina Perez, the tough and resourceful head of colony security. Sparks fly, not only between Talina and Kalico but also involving Captain Taggart, the Marines’ CO.

Having developed a taste for their independence, the embattled locals aren’t about to willingly return to the suffocating order of Corporation law. In the course of maneuverings by the rival authority figures, one of the ‘lost’ ships finally arrives. Some kind of time warp means that, while in our universe it’s only about six months late, for the ship over 120 years have passed. All aboard Freelander are long dead and on-board records indicate madness that evolved into a sadistic death cult helped speed their inevitable demise.

Now many of the Turalon‘s complement are afraid to risk a return flight. So is Kalico, though she dares not admit it. Desertions spark new conflict and Dan Wirth, a murderous and power-hungry figure among the new settlers, takes advantage. And at least one local predatory species seems more than a wildly dangerous beast. Talina helped hunt down and kill one that had eaten a human child, but in the process was somehow telepathically ‘infected’ by the dying Quetzal‘s consciousness.

When said Quetzal‘s mate sneaks into town for revenge even more mayhem results.

The world-building here, involving the Corporation’s culture, the freer society the older colonists have devised and the extreme conditions of the planet itself, is impressive in both scope and imagination. Some issues are resolved in a manner at once satisfying and realistically ambiguous, with plenty more drama left for the next two novels.

In short, this is a very capable page-turning opener to a new SF/adventure series.

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