cover image Assassin’s Orbit

Assassin’s Orbit

John Appel. Solaris, $11.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-78108-915-6

A mass shooting in a luxurious social club sparks interplanetary conflict in Appel’s competent debut sci-fi thriller. Private investigator Noo Okereke must team up with police commissioner Nnenna Toiwa and spy Meiko Ogawa to catch the perpetrator and quell an insurrection that threatens the station she calls home. Things go from bad to worse as rumors fly about the now-forbidden nanotech that created the Unity Plague and forced humanity’s exodus from “Lost Earth,” sparking fear of a second plague. With a background in technology risk and information security, Appel skillfully incorporates plausible advanced tech, as well as a range of subgenre influences from cyberpunk to military SF into his twisty mystery. There’s some clumsy exposition at the start, but the novel soon finds its feet, though fast pacing and an overlarge cast somewhat undermines the emotional impact of story and character beats. Thanks to the galaxy populated largely by peoples of African and Asian descent and point-of-view characters who are are mostly middle-aged or older women of color, Appel offers a unique entry point to the space opera plot. With solid, thoughtful representation in terms of religion, sexuality, and disability as well as race, gender, and age, this will be well worth the time of any reader looking for socially conscious hard sci-fi. [em]Agent: Hannah Bowman, Liza Dawson Assoc. (July) [/em]