Fearless (Book Review)
by Allen Stroud
4.5 / 5
Military Science Fiction
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
Fearless is an immersive and compelling story about the bonds of a crew and the perils of working in space.
Set in the future when colonies are just starting on planets in our solar system, the story follows the crew of the Khidr, a fleet ship on patrol. They are kind of like a space coast guard - they perform rescues and provide assistance to other ships in the area. They receive a distress signal from the Hercules, but what follows a routine check spirals into a mystery involving mutiny and galactic politics. The story follows three main characters: Captain Shann, Ensign Johannson, and Specialist Sellis.
The three shifting perspectives provide both a broader view to the events as well as allowing the mystery to deepen. We’re shown why people would spend their lives in space (Shann, due to a disability that anti-gravity makes easier to live with, Johannson due to ambition, and Sellis from escaping his debts). Each character has different, often conflicting, motivations. While they have different personalities from one another, we could have gotten a lot more backstory on them. They do have their own arcs to contend with, but we don’t learn a lot about why these arcs exist in the first place. The rest of the crew are hardly afforded any exposition, making it hard to remember who people were at times and to understand why they made the choices they did. But, it’s possible we have to sacrifice deeper characters for the amount of technical realism the book provides.
I liked that while Shann’s disability does define her in terms of determination and fortitude, her arc is not about this but making tough command decisions. It’s not often a person with a disability is the main character, and even less often does their arc focus on anything other than “overcoming” their physical differences/challenges.
The action and space maneuvering scenes were very well-described and the novel definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. There are space battles, threads of mutiny, EVA excursions, and lots of blood floating in space. There is an interesting mystery too. It often felt like an old sea tale but with no oxygen instead of waves. I very much enjoyed it and would definitely entertain a sequel.
Just a note: the title is very lackluster and kind of melodramatic. I mean, I get it, the crew had to be fearless to survive, but it’s very generic.