Book Review – Dark Run by Mike Brooks

All right, all right. I lied. But it wasn’t on purpose! All that upbeat energy transformed into restless homeowner real quick, and I spent the rest of yesterday measuring and planning out furniture and accessories.

But, I’m here and focused today.

So, Dark Run is the first in the Keiko series. Though the premise is familiar (I’m looking at you Firefly), who doesn’t want to read about space pirates?!dark-run

The Keiko is a private freighter (which looks like a cube), owned and operated by Captain Ichabod Drift. The first thing that stood out to me was that Captain Drift is Hispanic. He often slips into Spanish when under stress, and I understand just enough to find it hilarious. The second thing is that, despite bravado and confidence, he fucks up a bit. He reminded me of Locke Lamora if he were a futuristic space punk.

That’s probably why I loved him so much.

Accompanying Drift on his ship is a small crew of ex-cons and smugglers. Attracted to the jobs, the crew stay on because of the first rule of the Keiko: no questions about the past. Whoever you were before doesn’t matter, as long as you’re on the Keiko and performing your duties, you have a home.

Tamara Rourke has been with Drift the longest, just over eight years. Described as a tiny, dark skinned woman with a boyish figure, she’s easily underestimated. Which is unfortunate for anyone on the opposite end of her rifle. She’s a hard woman, with little sense of humor, and no expression of emotions. But Drift considers her his closest friend. It happens when you’ve saved each others’ asses for over eight years.

Next longest crew mate is Apirana Wahawaha, a hulking giant of a Maori. He used to be a member of the top Maori gang back on Earth, and it landed him in prison for… seven years or something. When he got out, he landed a job with Drift and never looked back. But his ritual tattoos often cause him trouble thanks to their association with the gang, which is the direct rival of the Yakuza. Anyway, he’s supposed to be intimidating and all that, but he’s a teddy bear (with a temper) underneath. And the whole time I just pictured this guy:

mauimoana

Thanks a lot Disney…

After that, it’s the Chang siblings. Drift helped Kuai, the Keiko’s engineer, break his sister out of jail, and now Jia pilots the Keiko. Now, I don’t know any Chinese, and the twins often break out in bitter arguments. Drift’s Mandarin is far from passable, but he offers interpretations as often as he can. And it’s also hilarious. Also, Jia has a bad case of Top Gun, and she thinks she’s the shit when it comes to being a helmsman. She gets the crew almost killed about a dozen times just in this book, but she also saves them all at least that many times. She’s incredibly insubordinate, but always gets Drift’s orders done along the way. And Kuai is just grumpy and passive aggressive.

And then there’s  the Dutch mercenary, Micah van Schaken. A former soldier for the Europan Commonwealth, Micah abandoned his post due to moral differences in order to pursue a life of a hired gun. He reminded me of Zaeed from Mass Effect 2, to the point where that’s exactly how I pictured him. Grizzled and grumpy, Micah is happiest when he’s shooting things and getting paid. Drift likes him because Micah’s loyalty lies with the money, so he can count on the man to do as expected.

The newest recruit is Jenna McIlroy, a young woman with incredible skill in technology. She’s what’s known as a slicer. She can hack ship systems and security protocols to fabricate licensing and ship documents, effectively getting the Keiko in and out of potentially hostile areas with no issue. But, she’s young and untried, and Drift has taken an almost fatherly view of her. I laughed pretty hard at a line where he acknowledges that he must be getting old because he doesn’t want to sleep with Jenna, and instead wants to protect her.

This is the merry band of misfits that call the Keiko home. And they’re a huge part of what makes this book work. The other part is the plot and pacing.

dark-run-uk-cover

Original UK Cover

Drift’s past has caught up with him, and a former employer has called upon him for one last job. But, it’s not a request. He blackmails Drift into a dark run. The Keiko and crew will take cargo to Old Earth, drop it off at a specific time and location, and then vanish. They must be unseen and above all they must not open the cargo.

Every instinct Drift has tells him it’s a bad job. Leave it and get as far away from Nicolas Kelsier as possible. But, there’s no escaping the man and his hired assassin. The Laughing Man is a space-wide terror, a veritable bogeyman. And during Drift’s meeting with Kelsier, the assassin has his sights on the Captain.

Side note: the fact that the villain is referred to as Kelsier really messed with me. There’s one Kelsier in my life, and though the Mistborn is a little insane, he’s not a villain. I struggled throughout the book not to picture my beloved, crazy Kelsier every time Nicholas Kelsier was mentioned. It was pretty frustrating.

So, in order to preserve his life and avoid his past, Drift accepts the job. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t go as planned. In order to stave off imminent death from Kelsier and his entourage, the crew of the Keiko take the fight to him.

But not before secrets and pasts are exposed.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s not mind-blowing. It doesn’t play with morals and themes. It’s pure fun. Time well spent with characters who immediately feel like old friends, in a world that is at once familiar and alien.

The world building was a really nice touch to the book. Earth governments fractured as colonization spread through the system, leaving four main powers. The United States of North America, The Europan Commonwealth, The Red Star Confederacy, and The Federation of African States are the remaining powers in the galaxy, Drift is a friend of none of them, and the political tensions and power struggles have direct influence on the characters and the world(s) they live in.

The pacing is unforgiving and the stakes are always high, which means this book flies by. Yes, there are a lot of clichés, and yes Mike Brooks’ prose is straightforward and fairly simplistic. But, if you’re just looking for some fun reading, something to entertain and make you laugh, then this should do the trick. I plan on coming back for the sequels, that’s for sure. Because there’s no reason not to read a book this fun.

dark-sky

Keiko #2, still awaiting US release

Stay tuned this weekend for the Jackaby book review!

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

 

 

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