Velocity Weapon

Book cover: Velocity Weapon - Megan O'Keefe (spaceships in flight)Siblings Biran and Sanda Greeve are practically perfect Primes: one a gifted politician, the other a brave gunnery sergeant. Separated by an unforgivable act of war, they will uncover a conspiracy that will make them question everything – including their own loyalties…

I have been meaning to read Velocity Weapon for at least a year. It launched with plenty of buzz, and arrived as a package designed perfectly for my space opera preferences: a sentient spaceship, a sibling relationship rather than a romance, and a promise of action and political shenanigans.

Megan O’Keefe serves up a great heroine in Sanda Greeve: stubborn, conscientious, more observant than she gives herself credit for without necessarily being a good judge of character. Pulled out of an escape pod years after the war, alone, adjusting to the loss of a limb, she remains indomitable. I loved Sanda Greeve and I was immediately sucked in by her terrible situation: the last human being in a dead system, with only a slim chance of MacGyvering her way to survival. She gets right to it.

I do love a disaster story, and this one came with plenty of hints that maybe – just maybe – her AI rescuer wasn’t being entirely candid (unlike Sanda, I was made of suspicion. My reading notes are all side-eyes and dark comments about space horror scenarios). The Light of Berossus – Bero – is a prototype, a sentient research ship that hosted inhumane experiments before the war. An enemy craft, he rescued Sanda’s escape pod from the detritus because he needs human hands to keep him running. His sub-light drive can get them to the nearest star system – give or take 80 years – if they scavenge materials for repairs along the way.

If this had been the whole book, I’d have been a happy camper. The tensions escalate nicely; there’s plenty of scope for it to dive into dark water and the rescue of a second survivor ups the ante on the ‘who to trust’ scales. It’s all set to be a taut space thriller.

But that’s not the story Velocity Weapon is setting up. It is the first in a series about the Protectorate, the frankly shady corporate overlords who hold the key to interstellar travel. Through Sanda’s brother Biran, we soon get a sense that (surprise!) they’re perhaps not quite as beneficent as they’d like everyone to think. Newly-appointed a Keeper, entrusted with a fragment of the knowledge that grants humanity access to the stars, Biran is catapulted into the limelight as war breaks out. His storyline illuminates the past that Sanda has slept through, slowly revealing details that may give the lie to her present. 

Biran’s tale is all politics and PR as he tries to balance his obligations to the Protectorate with his determination to recover his sister’s body from space. While I’m always here for manipulative shenanigans, I found Biran’s minor rivals too poorly defined to keep track of (the exception being dangerous maverick Lavaux); and I struggled to stay interested in a past storyline that seemed initially to have little relevance to Sanda’s predicament.

My lack of investment tripled when it came to third POV Jules, an unlikeable thief who lands in hot water after her crew break into a facility hosting a top secret experiment. Ultimately, this storyline – set in another solar system entirely – feels like set up for book two, and if I’m honest it irritated me as a distraction from the characters I actually cared about (sorry Jules).

It is almost impossible to discuss the second half of the book without spoilers, but I’m going to try. A major development at the halfway point changed my attitude towards Biran’s storyline and the trajectory of Sanda’s.

If the first half is space survival and politics; the second is action thriller and conspiracy. One flows neatly into the other, building on what we’ve learned about the Protectorate to usher in what will surely be a series-spanning plot about the lies buried in the heart of Prime. Never trust a single corporation with the keys to the universe, folks; always ask where they found them.

If this all sounds like a fun, fast read you’d like to tear through: good. That said, it didn’t quite work for me. I found it hard to engage with Biran or Jules because they were 200 years dead; 21st century references threw me out of the supposedly 36th century world-building. While I liked the characters, I was only invested in Sanda (and – weirdly – Anaia, whose motivations are never explained). Bero was fascinating and creepy in equal measure, but for all the final act tension leaning on his state of mind and attachment to Sanda, we saw too little of him after Tomas’s arrival on board (although shout-out to heroic maintenance bot Grippy, Hollywood sidekick or no).

For me, Velocity Weapon was one of those entertaining popcorn reads that ticks all the boxes without ever quite hitting the bullseye: easy to read, but equally easy to lay aside. I can see why it has had so many favourable reviews – I’ll probably be recommending it to other people – but I don’t want to read the sequels.