Don’t pick this book up and get past the first couple of chapters if it’s late and you’re trying to fall asleep. This is not the book to help you sleep.
Mike Kupari’s first stand-alone novel, Her Brother’s Keeper, is a space opera, and it’s a good, solid read. Once you get past the first chapter or so, which is admittedly a bit cliched and if you find yourself having that urge to back off and go ‘oh no, I’m not going down that rabbithole again.’ Relax. He’s not going there. As a matter of fact, you’ll find that by the end he’s mildly subverted that same cliche he began with. So keep reading, and remember, you have to set up conflict somehow, and there are only so many ways.
Once you’re settled in, you may see what I saw, homage to Drake, H Beam Piper, and Williamson. I was a happy girl at those little touches – not pastiche, but homage. Very lightly done, too. But I digress.
This is the tale of a privateer ship headed by a very practical captain. She is willing to help her family out, but she insists on getting paid, too. She’s not going to beggar her crew on some quixotic quest. Nor is she going to be like those spaceship captains you read about who run around on the ground fighting battles. No, for that she will hire the best she can find with her short time limits.
Enter some of my favorite characters in this story, Marcus and his daughter Annie. Annie reminds me of, well, me at that age. Marcus’s sidekick Wade is funny, and although the rest of the mercenary crew is more thumbnail-sketched than fully fleshed out, they still feel real, just not the focus of the story. Which is ok.
Kupari’s writing is not complex. Instead, it’s refreshingly bright and clear, making this an easy read to keep up with the intertwining plot elements until the whole thing comes to a head on a dusty, desolate planet. Me being me, I’d have loved to have seen more of the xenoarcheaology, but what was given was well done and didn’t set off my ‘they wouldn’t do that!’ buttons. I think he did an excellent job of inserting action into the story without being heavy-handed. There are space battles, ground battles, plans that do not go off without a hitch… it’s a fun read. I’m looking forward to the sequel, because the haunted spaceship just begs for a sequel.