Velocity Weapon — Shooting for the Stars

Friends, folks, however you consider yourselves, I have to admit a wrongdoing of untold selfish proportions. I have read this book twice, once upon its release, once quite recently, and I have yet to praise it’s glory to you. However, with Megan O’Keefe wrapping up her trilogy later this year, I figured I’d revisit the saga for a full read through, and ameliorate my sins. Reading Velocity Weapon is joy synthesized with breakneck thrills, and it’s a drug that does not lose its potency upon repeated use. Its twists and turns still came out blasters a’blazing, even the ones I remembered. So I’m here to tell you, if you missed Velocity Weapon by Megan O’Keefe, you should take another pass at the Ada system and marvel at its fast-paced beauty.

The story takes place in the far future of humanity, centered on a single star system (called Ada) that seems to reside on the borders of a greater human civilization. It has a single jump gate that leads to a wider universe populated by humanity. The planet Ada Prime is ruled by the Keepers, and its neighboring planet, Icarion, is signalling it will fight for greater access to the jump gate heavily regulated by the Primes. Enter the Greeve siblings, Biran and Sanda. Sanda is a member of Ada Prime’s spaceborn navy, while Biran is a newly inducted member of the Keepers. However, Sanda has woken up inside an enemy warship, after spending 230 years in cryo sleep. There is not a single human soul on board, leaving the ship’s AI, Bero (shortened from The Light of Berossus), to explain the situation to her. Ada Prime (Sanda’s world) was destroyed alongside Icarion in the latter’s pursuit for greater Autonomy. Unfortunately, with that knowledge comes Bero’s own complicity in the act, as he is the weapon Icarion used. Meanwhile, 230 years in the past, Biran is the new Speaker for the Keepers. His goal is to maintain a sense of peace and control of the situation after discovering his sister may have been killed in a warning shot from Icarion. How does Sanda cope with the loss, and how can she survive when everything she has ever known has been wiped out? What can Biran do in the face of impending doom, unbeknownst to him, as the two planets hurtle towards oblivion?

Velocity Weapon is a non-stop roller coaster that just never ends. O’Keefe slams the throttle to ludicrous speed from the opening chapter and does not let up. I found myself constantly amazed with O’Keefe’s ability to weave back and forth between the stories. She consistently ramps the tension up in both, while having them interact over the vast timeline. There is no direct interaction, but Sanda slowly coming to the realization that her entire life is gone, and those she loved destroyed, ramps up the ever present threat in Biran’s story. They are both speeding towards the collision, and even after several reveals, O’Keefe never lets up on the gas, finding ways to accelerate the narrative even more. It’s one rip-roaring hell of a good time.

The characters are a hoot and a half. Sanda doesn’t take shit from anyone, even from the ship Bero. If there is a problem, she puts her head down and works to solve it, even when it seems impossible. She is pure grit and action, pushing forward through her muddy circumstances with unwavering tenacity. She often puts herself in harm’s way, even when odds are clearly stacked against her. On the other hand, Biran is more like a bull in a china shop with a law degree who convinces the shop owner it was their fault for letting him in. He has moments where he wreaks havoc unwittingly because he feels it’s the best choice in his heart. Once he sees the trap he’s gotten himself into, though, he’s really good at turning the tables and making it work for him. Over time, he becomes more of a smooth operator, and it’s a pure joy to watch. Bero is a delight, and feels like an overpowered computer that is just growing as a personality. The computer exhibits the calculating nature and instant access to information while being jumbled up with emotional control of a child. Bero’s relationship with Sanda is a treat, and O’Keefe’s ability to write banter truly shines here.

The world presented within Velocity Weapon is also astoundingly realized, especially given the lightning pace that characterizes the book. It is a relatively small story, taking place within a single system that feels very much on the outskirts of a vast network of human colonies. There definitely seems to be a reason that the information dial is set to low for the majority of the characters, and O’Keefe sells it. Some people might find that certain sections of the book feel conveniently written, giving context to a mystery that isn’t present till later in the story, but I personally ate it up. It felt like following gumdrops into the dark forest that is clearly also on fire. O’Keefe littered the pages with these small mysteries nudging the reader forward, forcing me to interrogate the world and the character’s roles within it. It helps that O’Keefe leaves one with the knowledge to understand some things, but the well is much deeper than one can even imagine.

I only have two miniscule complaints about the book that stood out to me more on my second reading. The first is that sometimes the last quarter felt exhausting. O’Keefe shifts the plot into lightspeed, and twists and turns fly at you like asteroids in a Star Wars movie. It’s a rollicking good time that forces you to finish the book, but it’s also a lot of information to handle. I’m very glad I went for the re-read in preparation for the next two books. Second, there is a third POV character involving  a heist that is mostly disconnected from the back and forth between Sanda and Biran. It’s not that it was uninteresting, it just occasionally breaks the flow of the story. When it worked well, it was a good break, other times it just felt like it got in the way. It’s a great set up for the following books, but right now it feels a tad clunky.

Velocity Weapon ranks up there with one of the most aptly named science fiction books I’ve ever read. It blasts off with an extreme amount of force, and accelerates into near oblivion by the end. The first time I read it, I was ecstatic about it, and that really didn’t change on the second go around. It packs a punch and leaves one wanting more from the world and its characters. It’s hard to cover so much good that happens in a single book, but O’Keefe manages to make almost every aspect of the book tantalizing. However, now that I’ve refreshed myself on the details, I’m ready to dive into Chaos Vector just in time for the end of the trilogy later this year. If you’re looking for a fun, fast paced, high octane science fiction story, then Velocity Weapon is the perfect ignition.

Rating: Velocity Weapon 8.5/10
-Alex

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