Rook is the protagonist, a women who flies giant mechas, who spent her career rescuing downed jockeys from battlefields and getting them to medics. PTSD caught up with her, and a traumatic incident put her in jail, into a chain-gang on a giant starship stationed in the broken part of outer space.
The Eye. The ocean, a region of space that has so much debris and strange physics going on that it’s an ocean instead of void. Time works differently here. The various megacorps who constantly fight each other for the rest of space have a tense truce in the Eye, because it’s all unexplored and there are treasures inside. Maybe.
So Rook has been taken from prison and put into this region of space and because her megacorp isn’t sure this place is profitable, its ships are crewed by an increasing ratio of convicts.
This is where she meets the Juno. Her new giant mech, her shell. It’s an antique, a prototype that’s violent when she first meets it: it’s rebelling, breaking from its restraints and trying to eke out a bit of space in its hangar. The only reason they can talk it down from more violence is because Rook is given its old jockey’s helmet, which she uses to talk to it – but it forgives the deception and takes her as its pilot.
Juno’s old and traumatized from losing its old pilots. Rook’s traumatized from losing jockeys she couldn’t rescue in time. They’re both traumatized but they fly well together, and if you as a reader cannot approach these two characters ready to try to understand them, this book won’t work. It’s entirely from Rook’s POV.
The plot? The plot is: Rook’s part of a four-man unit of jockeys sent to explore some of the ruins in the ocean. They don’t so much find horror as it finds them, and the plot escalates in action and horror: there’s a devastating virus, there’s an imprisoned thing, there are the other megacorps, and there’s Rook’s unit: Hail, another convict who leads them all. Salt, a giant of a man who carries his own trauma. Locust. Andrade.
This book goes surprisingly wide, filling in details about the wars outside the ocean, where these broken convicts came from. It fills in the story of the megacorp they work for, the ones they’re aiming against, everything.
The book stays narrow, staying in Rook’s head and following only what she’s involved in.
It’s so deep, though. Rook is so, so compelling and understandable, and the Juno alien in the right ways, understandable in the right ways.
I didn’t know I could find a sci-fi book that hits everything I want: military sci-fi action, deep introspective psychological drama, horror, alien things, etc. Everything in this book sings just right and I didn’t know it could exist without me having to write it.
Author? You did good.
Reader of this review? You gotta read this book. You gotta. The prose is hypnotic and you could drown in it. You deserve to enjoy this book.