Biran flicked his gaze to a small collection of family items the decorating crew had nailed to his foyer wall, and zeroed in on one picture: Sanda, on the day they promoted her to captain of her gunship. Her grin wide, prideful. One arm slung, protectively, around Brian’s shoulders. She’d always looked out for him. Made a career of it.
I knew when I picked it up that Velocity Weapon would be firmly in my wheelhouse. A space opera promising mystery, tragedy, epic intergalactic politics, and rogue AI? I’m 100% in. My buy-in was cemented when I saw that Noumenon’s author Marina J. Lostetter had provided a glowing quote for the back cover.
Even with hopes this high, I was blown away by all Velocity Weapon had to offer.
O’Keefe’s writing is superb, balancing action and narration to present a compelling story and achingly wonderful characters. She never misses a beat in establishing the world, or introducing the characters, or defining and then testing the rules by which this universe vastly different than our own works. All this means that she wastes no time in burying you instantly in conflict, loss, fear, and loneliness, so that she can turn her full attention to promising you hope, joy, love, friendship, and wonder for the next 500 pages.
And she does. She does it all.
Even when relying on standard scifi tropes like the “you’ve been asleep for 230 years” twist, the way she executes the reveal is nothing but art. Sure, we’ve all seen that done a hundred times. But it’s like seeing 100 average painters paint a tree and then happening upon a Monet. And she has such an excellent sense for balance and pacing that she does this over and over, nailing scene after scene with this tight but active prose that just hammers home the emotion and the import without once losing its momentum.
And of course there’s the science itself.
Science fiction classics are often panned for their focus on science to the detriment of the narrative. We all know a reader who’s been turned off of scifi because of one too many experiences of a fun story getting bogged down so the author can focus on the science.
While some modern scifi has sidestepped this trap by forgoing scientific content entirely, some wonderful books have found another way. Sometimes, understanding the science (real-world science or fiction science) is necessary for the reader to understand the story. Some few authors have a particular gift of smuggling in the science lesson under the guise of character development or plot advancement such that the story is actually propelled by the scientific narration as much as it is by the action.
O’Keefe is definitely one such author, and this rare skill is on full display throughout her novel Velocity Weapon.
Not that she’s any kind of a slouch in other areas. Her characters are rich, compelling, and heart-rendingly relatable. And she has central queer representation in a way that feels perfectly natural – which is of course always a plus. Even when she delves outside the norms of human behavior to describe alien civilizations and their weird ways, O’Keefe shines. Because while she’s truly skilled when it comes to evoking all of the emotions in her readers and characters alike, one of my favorite touches in Velocity Weapon is when she leaves me filled with horror or disgust at something her characters are treating as perfectly normal.
And on top of all this, it’s funny! Not overly funny in an annoying way, but funny enough to be humanizing, to be recognizable, to be charming, and to cut the weight of the very real stakes O’Keefe’s characters face.
In the upper right of her HUD, text flashed: 😛
“Oh, my god. They taught you emoticons.”
“I had access to the in-system internet.”
“Of course you did. Because what better way to introduce a newly created intelligence to the world than through cat pictures and terrible puns.”
“I rather enjoyed the puns.”
“But not the cat pictures?”
“May I ask you an embarrassing question, Sanda?”
“Those are my favorite kind.”
“Are cats … real?”
I could go on and on about all the things I loved about this book but instead I’ll end it here, with the news that the sequel drops on July 28th, 2020, and I can’t wait.