A superhero space opera for grownups.
For fans of Guardians of the Galaxy or Invincible.
Like Dragonball Z but wish it had a little more hard science fiction in it?
The il’Drach Empire spans half a galaxy, built on the feet and fists of their Powered hybrid children.
At eight Rohan of Earth learned that he was only half human. By sixteen he was an active superhero, using his inherited powers to fight crime, in mask and spandex. At twenty-two he left his home to fight for the his father’s people, expanding the il’Drach Empire and protecting it from local and interdimensional threats. At thirty-two, exhausted by ten years of ruthless warfare, he retired to Wistful, a vast sentient independent space station, to try to live a normal life.
With a steady job, someone far out of his league to date, and the most cosmopolitan selection of fine dining in the sector, things are looking up.
Then a long dormant wormhole in Wistful’s system is opened by a ship full of refugees, drawing unwanted attention from the Empire. The appearance of the refugees sets off a chain of events that will force Rohan to confront his checkered past and cast doubt on whether he can ever leave behind his violent warrior heritage.
To keep his friends safe, and himself in one piece, Rohan has to face giant insects, body-skipping assassins, vengeful armored aliens, an inquisition of intelligent bears, and a team of his fellow hybrids. The open question is whether tapping into his savage alien powers will end up destroying the peaceful life he has been trying to build.
“That was pretty good advice. Have you been studying? Reading romance novels or something?”
“I subscribed to ‘Things your stupid friends should know but don’t.’ In my daily feed. At first, I believed it to be a parody site, but over time I realized it is frighteningly accurate. Now I read the entries and repeat them to people I know. Then they believe I am wise and sincere in caring for them.”
Sentient Space Stations are a nice touch. Sentient Spaceships are an even nicer touch. Sentient Space Bears who drink are the nicest touch.
This book was a treat. When I met the author at DragonCon he told me he wanted to go for the vibes of a south Indian movie. And he actually captures that vibe immaculately. For the people who are not acquainted with south Indian movies, they have their different qualities, range and stuff but the predominant trait most of them share is they tend to be ‘entertaining (in a mass pop appeal, over the top way)’.
I don’t know if others would categorize this to be a cozy sci-fi book because it has a lot of action, major stakes, and some dark stuff but to me it had a cozy vibe to it. It was because this book has a slice of life story structure and I was comfortable reading this book. I felt assured that the hero would end up saving the day and it would have a happy ending. It actually took up my daily life sitcom TV hour, a proper action comedy sitcom. At one point, the MC is fighting a 200 meter insectoid alien that can move extremely fast and can spit acid and yet I was very relaxed reading it. Very relaxed yet very engaged.
The book is very, very easy to read and the main character is very, very easy to like. He is a retired superhero who just wants to be left alone. In typical fashion though, trouble comes to him and the moments where some of his past is revealed is scary but is also scary-delicious in the I was a former OP-badass way.
While it is a mostly fun read, it also has depth and multiple layers to the story. I mean even the title is actually multi-layered, it is not just the name of the space station system. Now because it follows a slice of life structure, the protagonist is actually unveiled very well to the readers, he feels like a properly deep character and after a while I am able to predict his thoughts and how he would respond to the newly arising situations. The story also sets up multiple different threads and then ties them all up really well by the end.
Fun, great action scenes, MC with depth, sarcasm and an overall cozy vibe has been the bedrock of the Murderbot series for me. With just one book, JCM Berne has stolen the space opera part of my heart that Martha Wells was safeguarding previously and Hybrid Helix has become my new comfort sci-fi series.