Reviewed by Dan
AUTHOR: Marguerite Labbe
PUBLISHER: DSP Publications
LENGTH: 219 Pages
RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017
Haunted by the screams of the men he murdered, ex-Marine medic Riff Khora is serving a life sentence on board a prison ship. Seeking more punishment for his crime, he strikes a deal with the corrupt Captain Vidal—an exchange of pleasure and pain—and forges a new life leading the team that surveys space wreckage for salvage.
Ship engineer Zed Jakobsen’s psychometric abilities make prison a sentence worse than death, and the barrage of emotional stimuli is an unending torment. His only regret is that he didn’t kill the monster who sent him to prison, and only a glimmer of hope to escape a judgment he doesn’t deserve keeps him clinging to a brutal existence.
When they board derelict ship Pandora and discover a lone survivor, the hell of prison life plunges into abject horror. An epidemic of violence and insanity consumes their ship, driving the crew to murder and destruction. Mutual need draws Riff and Zed together, and their bond gives them the strength to fight a reality they cannot trust. But Vidal possesses the only means of escape from the nightmare, and he’s not letting anyone leave alive.
I’m not usually a fan of the type of sci-fi where things are jumping out and the characters are living on the edge, trapped in a tin can far from any planet or other hope of escape. That said, this one worked for me. Ms. Labbe has done a fantastic job of leading the story along with just the right amount of suspense, mixing it in with a growing relationship between two very different, and very broken men.
Riff was a complex character. Ms. Labbe wrote him as a man trying to atone for his sins. He feels he needs pain to make the screaming in his head stop. He is a ‘lifer’, a prisoner sold to the Captain of the ship he is serving on, and there is no hope for a parole… ever. He has let himself be used sexually by the evil ship’s Captain in a twisted BDSM arrangement which the Captain sometimes allows the video screen to broadcast. The entire crew knows he is the Captain’s toy and they treat him with contempt. But he also works behind the scenes to help with the lives of the other ‘lifers’ on board, and because of his ‘relationship’ with the Captain, he is in charge of a salvage team.
Zed recently arrived on the ship. He was sentenced to life on trumped up charges, but is protecting someone, so can’t fight the punishment. When Riff’s salvage crew is down a member, and they encounter a derelict ship named Pandora, Zed is recruited to join the team.
Things go very badly, very fast. I really enjoyed how Ms. Labbe kept us guessing what was going on, while dropping hints as she went along. This was one of those books that kept you cheering on the heroes, right up until the end. As the body count climbs, no one is safe. Who will make it to the end of the story… if anyone?
There is some relatively light BDSM in the story, and quite a lot of violence, some of it a little graphic, but not so far over the top that it should put anyone off. It isn’t a sticky sweet romance, although there is a romantic element that develops. I highly recommend the book for anyone who is a sci-fi fan, and likes their reads on a slightly darker and more suspenseful side.