Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Ten Low by Stark Holborn: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Ten Low by Stark Holborn

Ten Low is a stand-alone sci-fi novel by Stark Holborn. It takes place in not-so-distant future from earth at the edge of the universe, on a badly terraformed moon that’s basically a desert. People fleeing from the dominant political force, the Accord, and ex-convicts try to make the most of the meagre reserves they have. It’s a desolate, violent place where bandits and protectors alike prey on the weak. And the most feared of all are the Seekers who harvest the organs of the dying.

But the humans know they’re not alone on the moon. There are beings no one can see and only a few can sense; beings of potential and chaos, who feast on human will. They were there first. And they are very interested in some humans, like Ten Low.

Ten is an escaped convict, a former army medic with a past she’s trying to atone by striving to save as many lives as she can, and never kill again. One night, the beings give her a vision of potential futures. Compelled to follow the path they show her, she ends up saving an enemy general, a genetically enhanced child soldier, Gabi.

The story follows the pair as they try to make it to safety through a hostile terrain where safety is only an illusion. Ten is on an inner journey as well, as she begins to trust the beings that guide her steps, for reasons that she doesn’t understand. Little by little we learn what she has done to earn her sentence and why she’s atoning. And little by little it dawns on her that the atonement is not what she thought it would be.

This was a great book. It’s a blend of sci-fi, western dystopia, and paranormal. It’s told solely from Ten’s point of view, and she’s strong enough to carry the narrative, though it leaves the side characters, even Gabi, slightly vague. The world is gritty and dry, and the action is plenty. As the story progresses, the paranormal side takes over more and more, creating improbabilities that nonetheless become realities. And somehow it works. Really well.

If you want your Firefly (sans spaceships) with a hefty dose of mystical, this is for you.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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