Perdition - Ann Aguirre
Welcome to Perdition. At one time, Perdition was a deep space ore refinery. Then the Conglomerate decided that it would make a fine floating prison. They stripped the place and left. This is where they send the worst of the worst. An automated ship docks at irregular intervals and leaves new prisoners and various supplies. There are no cells, no guards, no maintenance, nothing. It’s every man for himself. Of course, alliances tend to form. There are six major ‘territories,’ each ruled by a convict. There is no such thing as parole or release from Perdition. There’s nothing to do but fight and try to consolidate power.
As a woman, it’s tough to just survive in Perdition. The Dred Queen manages her territory with the help of her spymaster, Tam, and her enormous bodyguard Einar. Her reputation is fairly new, and she has to live up to her ‘legend’ every day. Part of it is the chains she wraps around her arms and legs; they’re not just decorative, they’re quite handy in a fight. It’s exhausting, but the only way to survive. When a new supply ship docks, Dred is there with her people to try to grab supplies, and to look over the new fish, hoping to add to her numbers.
Jael steps off the transport and into chaos. There’s fighting over the supplies, of course. And, since no one has anything at all to lose, the fights are deadly. Then he sees Dred and her people. Jael is used to being discounted and generally ignored as an expendable grunt. When the woman takes a (professional) interest in him, he’s surprised. But he’s got nowhere else to go, so why not throw in with her? Like every inmate, (including Dred) Jael is hiding something. He’s not quite human.
The author does a masterful job of setting the scene. Everything takes place in a space vessel. I could see the grimy, gray walls; see the flickering of the unmaintained lights; tried not to imagine the smell that ship must contain. Even though the ship is huge, it’s still a confined space and slightly claustrophobic for all that. All of this sets the background for a story that’s part spy thriller, part personal quest, and a whole lot of action. If you’re sensitive to gore or violence or the language that comes with it, this is not a book for you. For the rest of us, this is a great find: A story that’s part spy thriller, part scifi adventure, and part action movie.
The character development is amazing, too. Bottom line: all these people are criminals of one stripe or another. Mostly, they’re violent killers. The author manages to craft identities and backstories for each of the characters that, at least, give us an understanding, if not an empathy for, that person. Even though they’re all “bad,” there are some who are much more bad/crazy/dangerous than others. In the world the author has created, it’s easy to understand the sliding scale of human behavior. Being sentenced to Perdition without hope is one thing; reading about it is another. I’m already planning a return trip.
ISBN# 978-0-425-25844-8 (paperback)