Velocity Weapon by Megan O’Keefe
Orbit, pb, £8.99
Reviewed by Megan Leigh @m_leigh_g
Though Megan O’Keefe isn’t new to the genre writing scene, as they used to say when re-runs played over the summer months, she was ‘new to me’. I have been thoroughly impressed with the hard science fiction being written by women recently, not to mention the stunning The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley from earlier this year. Velocity Weapon is definitely worthy of rubbing shoulders on your bookshelf with Hurley’s soon-to-be classic.
The novel follows Sanda Greeve who wakes up aboard a smart AI ship, having been rescued in the aftermath of a Great War. It may only have felt like moments to Sanda but as The Light of the Berossus, or Bero as he prefers to be called, explains, Sanda has been in a medically induced hibernation for 230 years. Not only are all her family and friends dead, but also her entire planet has been wiped out. But when Sanda rescues another pod from the debris, the cracks in Bero’s story start to show…
There is also a dual timeline running in the novel, with the other story focusing on Sanda’s brother Biran – following him from trainee to political upstart to major political figure. Biran uses his position to track down his sister while simultaneously trying to avoid a war that could end all civilisation in their part of the universe.
Like many of my favourite science fiction novels, Velocity Weapon doesn’t fit neatly into any specific category. People have labelled it space opera, which it is to an extent, but there are also a lot of elements of military SF and thriller in there as well. The political machinations combined with the claustrophobic conspiracies make the novel an absolute page-turner. Just as you feel it might be reaching the middle slump, O’Keefe throws yet another curveball at the reader – most of which I never saw coming. Where other doorstop-sized books start to hit their middle slump, Velocity Weapon just added a twist. As a reader, I was constantly kept on my toes.
If I had bothered to stop and think about the plot as I was reading, I may well have picked up on the twists before they were made clear – but the characters were so enthralling that my mind never wandered into pondering or trying to work through potential plot holes (and let me assure you, this is something I often do as I read). Even for the first sizeable chunk of the novel where Sanda is alone with Bero, O’Keefe manages to keep the sense of action up almost through character growth alone. Sanda and Biran are incredibly compelling characters. While I didn’t always agree with their choices, I was heavily invested in learning what would happen to them.
While O’Keefe’s prose is of the ‘windowpane’ variety and easy to read, it does occasionally err on the side of irritatingly casual and colloquial. This, like most things in reviews, is very much reflective of personal preference but I really hate the word ‘got’. There are so many better words and ways of expressing similar things, but O’Keefe uses it throughout the novel. Even if you insist on using ‘got’ in your everyday spoken language, it simply isn’t worthy of use (let alone repetitive use) in a novel! Each time it cropped up (and it did many times) it irked, pulling me out of an otherwise brilliant narrative.
Verdict: For fans of space opera and video games such as Mass Effect. Velocity Weapon is a twisty political scifi thriller but don’t come here looking for science fiction that explores heavy philosophical questions. This is a book that is fun, not enormously deep. Then again, who doesn’t love great character-driven scifi?