Megan E O’Keefe burst onto the science fiction scene with the lore-heavy but character driven Velocity Weapon – first book in her Protectorate trilogy. There was a lot to get across in that series but O’Keefe managed to bring readers along through a wide cast of engaging characters and some riveting and well written action scenes. In the first book of her new series, The Blighted Stars, O’Keefe has created a very different but equally complex universe and again manages to engage readers mainly through two very relatable, flawed characters.
The Blighted Stars opens with an extended action sequence. The mining vessel Amaranth has been attacked by its sister vessel and is going down. Tarquin Mercator, scion of one of the five great families, disobeys his father and helps a group of survivors board a shuttle and crash land on the planet below. With him is renowned terrorist Naira, only he does not know this as her consciousness is in a different body to her own. Once on the planet, along with trying to survive, the two start to discover that everything they thought they knew about pretty much everything was wrong. And what is more, there is a hidden threat to humanity that they need to stop.
There is so much to unpack in this story on the world building side. First there is the ability to print bodies and transfer consciousness (which has rules of its own). Second there is humanity’s reliance on a new mineral called relkatite, the process of mining which has significant impacts on planetary environments. There are the five great families, Naira’s group of terrorists trying to stop the mining and much, much more. O’Keefe skilfully deploys this information so that when the penny finally drops for the characters, it will make sense to the reader. So as the pressure increases and the threat emerges, readers know why.
The Blighted Stars is fairly dark and more than a little bleak. But O’Keefe has established two winning characters in Tarquin and Naira and given them a seemingly impossible quest going into Book 2 of this series. So impossible that it is hard to see how this series will get to a planned third book but it promises to be fun (and tense) finding out.