Review: Artifact Space (Arcana Imperii #1) by Miles Cameron


Rating: 9.5/10

Synopsis

Out in the darkness of space, something is targeting the Greatships.

With their vast cargo holds and a crew that could fill a city, the Greatships are the lifeblood of human occupied space, transporting an unimaginable volume – and value – of goods from City, the greatest human orbital, all the way to Tradepoint at the other, to trade for xenoglas with an unknowable alien species.

It has always been Marca Nbaro’s dream to achieve the near-impossible: escape her upbringing and venture into space.

All it took, to make her way onto the crew of the Greatship Athens was thousands of hours in simulators, dedication, and pawning or selling every scrap of her old life in order to forge a new one. But though she’s made her way onboard with faked papers, leaving her old life – and scandals – behind isn’t so easy.

She may have just combined all the dangers of her former life, with all the perils of the new…

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of Artifact Space for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.

Artifact Space is THE premiere epic space opera to have on your summer reading list. Cameron pulls no punches with razor-sharp prose, fast-paced storytelling, universe-scale world-building, and a cast of characters you can’t help but root for. Cameron fans and sci-fi fans alike are in for a real treat.

‘Apparently, once upon a time, cooking with gas was very…’ His eyes met hers. ‘Honestly, I don’t know. Half our jargon is from the old United States Navy and the other half is from the ancient British Royal Navy, and there’s a bunch of early spaceflight operations and some even from Old Terran trucking. Navies are the most conservative linguists anywhere – we preserve even the meaningless terms for hundreds of years.’

Nbaro smiled. ‘Like by and large.’

His eyes kindled, a fellow enthusiast. ‘Exactly.’

Weird to say as Miles and I have been social media pals for what feels like forever, but this is actually the first book of his that I have read. I have heard numerous amazing things about his Traitor Son Cycle and most recently Masters & Mages, and of course all of the historical fiction he writes under Christian Cameron, but just have not had the chance to take a stab (pun intended).

To say it took me some time to get used to Cameron’s writing style is a bit of an understatement, but once I figured out the flow and texture of his prose, this book flew by. The prose is very punchy and in your face; it doesn’t allow you much time to get your footing until you are thrown against a wall or having to parry for your life. I think that is part of what made this read so special. The author doesn’t waste time droning on and on with info dumps. Everything in the story serves a purpose and it is your job as the reader to keep up. Not saying things aren’t explained, but much like in grade school, the teacher is only going to say it once and then you are on your own.

Marca Nbaro is such an intriguing character. The way in which she navigates her way onto the Athens (very illegally), attempts to keep a low profile while also rising up the ranks by being a badass, and is always there to lend a hand to her crewmates is such a refreshing take in a genre (military science fiction) that is generally filled with gritty, war-soaked alcoholics looking for some kind of redemption or ‘last hurrah’. She is a character that is easily likeable; one who you quickly become enamored with as you learn about her past and the reason behind throwing everything and kitchen sink at getting onboard the Athens.

The book reads like a season of a TV show, which is a bit of a breathe of fresh air from a singular on-going battle or trip across the universe. Chapters feel like episodes where you can either read one and set it aside, or binge the entire thing to your heart’s content. Gives you sort of a reason to continue as chapters sometimes end on cliffhangers and, well, you just have to know what happens next.

All in all, this is an extraordinary piece of science fiction that will end up on my ‘Best Of’ list for 2021.

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