Reese is captain of Earthrise, a merchant ship she only barely has the money to keep running. Years ago, she received a generous loan from a mysterious benefactor, and now that benefactor wants that debt repaid. Reese doesn't have the money, but it isn't money the person wants. Instead, Reese is instructed to find a captured Eldritch before he can be handed over to slavers.
Reese and her crew do find Hirianthial, who turns out to be a doctor in addition to a spy, but the situation is even more dangerous than they realized. Although they all manage to escape from captivity, the Earthrise is badly damaged, and the pirates who'd been holding Hirianthial may come after them all to seek revenge.
I first became aware of this book when several people I follow on Booklikes added it to their “planning to read” lists. The cover was gorgeous and caught my eye. While I was checking out Mindtouch, I saw Earthrise again and realized they were by the same author. I bought both of them at the same time.
This book had a much stronger start than Mindtouch, and I appreciated that it had more of an actual plot. There is something addictive about Hogarth's writing, and it's pretty much guaranteed that I'll be reading more of her works. That said, I did feel that Earthrise was a slightly less enjoyable read than Mindtouch.
My biggest problem with the book was Reese, who was very, very prickly. She had reason to be. She grew up on Mars and was part of a family that followed the tradition of having only girls and reproducing via artificial insemination. Her family would have preferred her to stay with them, take care of her mother in her old age, and then have a baby who would eventually take care of her. Instead, she disappointed them all by going off and captaining a merchant ship. We only see her family once in the book, but they make it clear that they're not an accepting bunch. As a result, I think Reese expects rejection more than she realizes, and so she puts up walls around herself. Thick, spiked walls.
I put up with her prickliness in the beginning because I wanted to see what caused it. Also, it was clear that she was more prickly with newcomers, like Hirianthial, than long-time crew members. Maybe she'd open up more as she got to know Hirianthial, or at least stop kicking at him so much. She did make a bit of an effort to learn more about Eldritch (although reading romance novels featuring Eldritch didn't seem to be the best way to go about it), and I loved it when she defended Hirianthial from undeserved emotional abuse after tragedy befell a patient in his care.
However, in the last 10% of the book, Reese behaved in ways so boneheaded that I actually cheered when her crew members bit her head off for it. She absolutely deserved it. Yes, she was in a tense, dangerous, stressful situation, but so was everyone else, and she was the only one acting like an idiot. Despite a whole book's worth of evidence that Hirianthial was stubbornly honorable and more capable than stereotypes about Eldritch might lead one to believe, she continued to insult him by implying that he might read her mind on purpose and by complaining that he was constantly in need of rescue. She had so little trust in Hirianthial, even that late in the book, that she refused to listen while he tried to quietly lead them all safely through enemy territory. My head almost exploded.
While I appreciated that she later apologized to Hirianthial for what she said and did, her apology came a little late and might not even have happened had a crew member not asked her to treat him less like dirt. I really hope that, in the next book, Reese's behavior towards Hirianthial improves. I'm not sure if Reese and Hirianthial are going to be a romantic couple, but, if that's where things are going, they're off to a really crappy start.
Unlike Reese, Hirianthial did soften and warm up as the book progressed. I can't remember how old Jahir, the Eldritch in Mindtouch, was, but Hirianthial felt much older, more wearied and worn down by his years. Even his physical condition made him seem older – he had arthritis in several of his joints. He was a doctor, and his greatest concern was saving others' lives, even if he ground himself down in the process. Being with the crew of the Earthrise brought him a little more back to himself, I think. One of my favorite parts of the book involved the crew members getting together to make him a thank you gift, which they then (minus Reese) braided into his hair.
This book had more action and less alien culture info than Mindtouch, although there were still some nice tidbits. For example, a brand new (to me) being called a Flitzbe was introduced. Also, a sizable portion of the book took place on Harat-Sharii, the home world of the polygamous (polygynous?) Harat-Shar. The way their medical industry worked was both fascinating and horrifying. I learned a little more about Harat-Shar family groups, but I ended up with more questions than I started with. Irine and Sascha's relationship, for instance, had me doing a triple-take – like Reese, I wasn't quite comfortable with their complete lack of issues with sibling sexual intimacy, and I couldn't help but wonder what sorts of taboos the Harat-Shar had, if any.
The action portions of the book were good and reminded me a bit of Joss Whedon's Firefly at times. Like Mal, Reese was perpetually short on funds and occasionally did things she wasn't entirely comfortable doing, because otherwise there was no money to keep going. At least once in this book, that bit her in the butt in a major way. Because she and her crew were primarily merchants, not fighters, they tried to talk their way out of trouble when they could. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. They could, and did, run away from trouble when possible. One of my favorite early scenes involved the use of crates of berries as accidental weapons, because the Earthrise was not equipped with real ones.
All in all, this was a decent book that I would have liked a good deal more if Reese's behavior hadn't been so bad so close to the end. The storyline was fairly interesting, I liked most of the characters, and it was nice to find out a little more about the overall universe that Mindtouch had introduced me to. Some parts of the book could have been tightened up a bit, while others might have benefited from a bit more detail. For example, I would have liked to have seen and learned more about Reese's life and family on Mars, and, while the portion that took place on Harat-Sharii was interesting, I suspect it could have been shortened without hurting the story.
Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
- Gridlinked (book) by Neal Asher – I haven't read this. I chose it for this list because it sounded like it'd have a goodly amount of action and star some interesting characters. The main character is a sci-fi James Bond-type who's beginning to burn out.
- Tribes (e-book) by Carmen Webster Buxton – If you'd like to try another self-published sci-fi author who creates interesting worlds, you might want to give this a shot. Some of the bits on Harat-Sharii in Earthrise reminded me of this book. I've written about this book.
- Grimspace (book) by Anne Aguirre – I haven't read this. I chose it for this list because it sounded like a solid space opera with some occasionally fun crew interaction. It sounds like it may be sci-fi romance.
- Finders Keepers (book) by Linnea Sinclair – Another one I haven't read, and another one that sounds like it may be sci-fi romance. There's politics, a bit of action, and a female trader who comes across a military officer stranded in space.
- Firefly (live action TV series) – This series and Earthrise have a similar feel. Those who'd like another science fiction series with action, humor, and a motley spaceship crew might want to give this a try.
- Farscape (live action TV series) – Another awesome sci-fi show featuring a motley crew of very different beings. There's action, humor, and even a bit of romance.