If you told me you could write a full-blown space opera in half the pages of most others in the sub-genre, I’d laugh and tell you “no way”. Then you could toss me a copy of Corey J. White’s debut novella, Killing Gravity, and I’d read it, and I’d stand corrected.
For me (and probably everybody else), the defining characteristic of space opera is its size. Big locations, and big galaxies, and big characters, and big star ships, and big lofty conflicts. Well, Killing Gravity definitely has some of those, but what it doesn’t have is big page counts. The actual book, in paper back finishes up in just 169 pages, making it a perfect beach or staycation read. I discovered Killing Gravity while I was writing my May sci-fi and fantasy new release article. What appealed to me is the length. I often order 3-5 books per month, and am hard pressed to finish all of them. Killing Gravity was perfect. I finished it in a matter of days.
Killing Gravity tells the story of Mars Xi, a void witch, who has serious psychic abilities, some cool tech implants, and a major chip on her shoulder. Both Mars and her “pet”, Seven, were created by MEPHISTO, a military organization, and their experiments to weaponize humans and animals. I, for one, believe wholeheartedly that the military industrial complex will be alive and well, deep into the future, so it always sucks me in when the antagonist is a part of it. Mars spends the duration of the story seeking revenge for her life which was just the product of an experiment.
On the front cover of the book there is a quote from award winning sci-fi author Will McIntosh, “Fans of Firefly will love Killing Gravity.” One of the charms of the Joss Whedon series and subsequent movie Serenity is the characters. That group on the Serenity is a hodge-podge of misfits, who most certainly didn’t belong together, but managed to make it work, and became as tight as a family as they traveled the ‘verse. In Killing Gravity, the crew of the Nova is the same thing, and adding the reluctant Mars to the mix, adds to the diversity already in play with Squid, Mookie, Trix and the ship’s AI, Einri. Hard to imagine that they are a crew, based on their individual personalities, but they make it work, and in the end prove that they are much more than just co-workers.
In creating a space opera (big, big, big) in so few pages White was required to strip out everything that did not serve the story. In some cases, that included some essential exposition. Sometimes the book suffered a bit because of that. As I said earlier, the length is what attracted me, but I could have done with another 25-50 pages and still felt that the length was perfect. I would have liked some more backstory and description along the way. MEPHISTO, for example, isn’t very well fleshed out in the story. Military organization, bad guys, well equipped – got it. I would have loved a bit more in order to understand the reasons behind them experimenting on children to weaponize people. Additionally, the captain of the Nova, named Squid, is referred to throughout the book in plural….their eyes, their feet… and I even paged back to see if I missed something, but could not find it. A bit more on that would have made the book better, even at the expense of adding a few more pages to the book.
Killing Gravity, published by Tor.com, is listed as the first book of The Voidwitch Saga , and I hope that is true. This book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I don’t like loose ends, so I will definitely be grabbing book 2 when it is released to see how this group resolves the unresolved and how they continue on in their run from and fight with MEPHISTO.
Final Score 8.5/10
I loved being able to get through this book quickly. When you have a lot of books on deck to review, some short, fast ones are perfect filler between the longer works. I enjoyed getting to know Mars Xi and the crew of the Nova, and this book was a character driven book that offered some great glimpses to one possible timeline deep in the future. It’s not perfect, but it’s fun. I think it is a great start for a debut novel.
+ Short, concise read. Perfect for vacation, staycation, and/or beach.
+ Action packed for a short book.
+ Excellent characters, including an AI and an overarching military organization.
+ Some very imaginative technology that I am sure someone is working on right now.
– Needed a bit more description and backstory in certain places.
– Cliffhanger ending. I hate cliffhanger endings. There better be a book 2.
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The Grumpy Geek, Pete Herr is the author of “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”. He is the oldest geek in the Geekiverse by a factor of two. Follow Pete Herr on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram . If you don’t he gets Grumpy. You don’t want to see him Grumpy.
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