VELOCITY WEAPON by Megan E. O’Keefe (Book Review)
‘Ada Prime’s Casimir Gate filled the sky. Only from this position, she thought, can one truly appreciate the gate’s beauty. It was massive beyond her ability to articulate — even Keeper Station, so large it housed hundreds of thousands, barely managed to eclipse a small stretch of the ring that was the frame of the gate. The light of it had always been Ada’s guiding star.’
Velocity Weapon is the first book in the Protectorate series by Megan E. O’Keefe. Hailed as a book that will provide ‘dazzling space battles’ and ‘intergalactic politics’, you can see why this one has been on my radar for quite some time now. So, was it all that I hoped it would be? Hell yes, and so much more.
It’s hard for me to describe the plot of Velocity Weapon, because I don’t want to unwittingly give away any spoilers or even any clues as to how the narrative unfolds. Let it be known now though, O’Keefe will take you down paths you were never expecting! So, I’ll just mention that the book begins with our main protagonist, Sanda, waking up onboard an enemy spaceship 230 years into the future. Sanda is not alone though, not by any means. You see, the ship is actually a sentient AI, who calls himself Bero. Our second protagonist is Biran, Sanda’s younger brother; his timeline focuses back to the moments when the enemy Icarion declare war upon his homeland planet, Ada Prime. As Icarion unleashes their attack on Prime, Biran searches desperately for his sister.
I have stated before that I’m not a big fan of space opera, and that I’m also not overly fond of long scenes where characters are confined onboard a spaceship. I tend to prefer my sci-fi to be centred around a planet, and have culture, religion and alien life explored; if you think in terms of the Dune saga, which is one of my favourites, then you’ll understand the type of sci-fi I mean. However, Megan O’Keefe made me eat my words, because I adored this little gem of a space opera! Yes, we do explore intergalactic politics through the conflict between Icarion and Ada Prime, and also through the concept of Keepers, who held the secret of intergalactic travelling through gates. We also touch upon philosophy shown through the nature of AIs, but ultimately Velocity Weapon is a space-romp which revels in its hundred percent fun-factor.
I believe that O’Keefe creates a fantastic balance between an intriguing plot which constantly keeps you on your toes, and a fantastic array of charismatic characters. Take Sanda, for example. She is a character that drips with charm and feistiness. She’s not one who wallows in self-pity or gives in to despair. No, not our Sanda. She sees a problem, she finds a solution, even if that solution may be ludicrous. Damn the risks, damn the consequences, LET’S DO THIS! I have to say, I hold such a soft spot for these ballsy type of characters.
In the early chapters, Sanda and the AI Bero, and even the repair bot, Grippy, form quite an endearing bond, which proved to be humorous and simultaneously thought-provoking. I wish I could discuss Bero in more detail but I think I would hit spoiler territory which I’m trying to avoid. What I will say though, is that Bero will make you feel many feelings. Nonetheless, these scenes often held razor-sharp wit, and cleverly laced dialogue, so even though they were confined, they were always entertaining. In fact, all of Sanda’s interactions with other characters were a complete delight.
“Maybe I should have flown,” Tomas said.
She glared at him. “One leg is better than one arm in the command chair. Anyway, we’re not dead yet.”
“Keep talking, might speed things up.”
Then as we are introduced to Biran, we see that he is more the intellect, the diplomat, the one who strives for peace rather than warfare. Seeing Biran navigate his way through politics, but also truly trying to help the people of Ada Prime – and his sister – well, you couldn’t help but root for him to succeed. There was a third POV too – Jules. I was less invested in her character and narrative, much of it was quite the mystery throughout. I kept trying to decipher where Jules’ story was leading, but couldn’t quite hit the mark. However, I did appreciate the way her character represented the seedy underworld on Atrux. I suspect Jules’ character has a lot more to offer in the sequel too after the way her narrative revealed its true nature at the end!
Often with the sci-fi genre, I find myself struggling to fully immerse myself because I get tied in knots over trying to understand and visualise all the world-building, particularly the technology. Did I understand all of the tech-y space terms in Velocity Weapon? Nope. Did I care? Not one bit. When a book is this well done, then not understanding every single detail ceases to matter. So, although I may have had certain terms go over my head, O’Keefe never left me bewildered either. I found the prose created a cinematographic read. Every scene was so well crafted, there was this ultra-real feeling, you could visualise it, like a film playing out on the page.
Speaking of well crafted. I love it when authors pay attention and include little details, especially in their chapter titles. Naturally, I very much enjoyed the humorous chapter titles that were included; ‘Surviving day forty would be super‘, ‘Naps are never long enough’ and ‘The wisdom of repair bots’ were ones that really stood out to me.
So, to sum up, reading Velocity Weapon felt like being strapped into our very own spaceship and being on one exhilarating, fun ride. Megan O’Keefe, I salute you, you are one damn deliciously thrilling, tricksy author!
Thank you Brit EB Hvide at Orbit for providing this review copy in exchange for an honest review.