Title: Contract of Defiance
Author: Tammy Salyer
Published: August, 2014
When all other options run out, never let go of your gun. In a few hundred years, the Algol system becomes humanity’s new home. The question is: Is it a better one? When a crew of arms smugglers botches their latest job, Corps-deserter and crewmember, Aly Erikson, is separated from her brother, the only person she can trust, and left behind to fight for her life. In the aftermath, as she tries to piece together what happened, a crew of roughneck settlers pressgang her into a dangerous mission in the heart of Corps territory. Time is running out to get back everything she’s lost: her crew, her brother, her options. But no one is taking her gun.
Characterization and badassery
If you want a female protagonist who’s happy to shoot first and ask questions later, that’s Aly Erikson. She’s a character with a hero complex who has morality and loyalty, but has been pushed by the vagaries of the universe into a life of brutality. She’s tough, smart (sometimes a little too smart, more on that later), and as closed off as Bruce Willis in…well, just about everything Bruce Willis has ever been in.
I love to see very fleshed out characters who are fully developed personas, but I didn’t quite get that here. Because Aly is so closed off, I don’t get a tremendous sense of who she is, underneath all the loyalty and bang-bang. Likewise for the other characters—the author created a lot of stuff to really explore, but there’s so much action that we don’t get those quieter moments where we really get to know the characters. Near the end, some of them start to flesh out more, which is promising. Perhaps that will continue into the next book in the series.
Plot and pacing
This book is a running firefight, almost beginning to end. Lots of action, of the good variety. The plot is fairly simplistic, though it has some tendrils that reach out and exist as opportunities for a great deal of development.
I felt like the pacing bogged down in places due to a lot of detail into weaponry, equipment, medical procedures, and viral epidemiology. While glimpses of those tech details can create a great sense of immediacy and an understanding of the worldbuild, I felt like Aly (a hardcore military jarhead sort) wouldn’t know so much about the history of a virus or the specifics of cybernetic medicine, and it felt a little off-kilter to me. But then I’m a light-on-the-technobabble, heavy-on-the-character-development sort. If you’re the other way around, then this is a goldmine. It’s all about preferences, which is exactly what makes reviews so subjective.
Fortunately, there IS a sense of completion at the end of this story. Although the door is left wide open for the next books in the series, there isn’t that “wait, what??” cliffhanger pseudo-ending that drives me crazy. Nope, when I got done with this book, I felt like I’d read a complete book. Which is just how I like it.
Prose and editing
A solid job. It has some minor typos, nothing too distracting. I did notice a persistent use of “I” as the object of a sentence when it should have been “me.” For example, “…having given David and I up for dead days ago.” That kind of thing sticks out to me.
A couple of lighter moments, mostly Desto’s doing, but mostly Aly is a tortured, grim sort of person.
So much potential here! This could easily have been a 4 or 5 star for me, if I’d just gotten that person-to-person interaction I love to see, so I could get into the heads of these characters to really get to know them. The worldbuild here is interesting, and there’s a lot to pull from, so I hope that will happen in future books of the series.