Perdition by Ann Aguirre
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“The prison ship Perdition, a floating city where the Conglomerate’s most dangerous criminals are confined for life, orbits endlessly around a barren asteroid.
Life inside is even more bleak. Hailed as the Dread Queen, inmate Dresdemona “Dred” Devos controls one of Perdition’s six territories, bordered on both sides by would-be kings eager to challenge her claim. Keeping them at bay requires constant vigilance, as well as a steady influx of new recruits to replace the fallen. Survival is a constant battle, and death is the only escape.
Of the newest convicts, only one is worth Dred’s attention. The mercenary Jael, with his deadly gaze and attitude, may be the most dangerous criminal onboard. His combat skill could give her the edge she needs, if he doesn’t betray her first. Unfortunately, that’s what he does best. Winning Jael’s allegiance will be a challenge, but failure could be worse than death…”
I had a little trouble getting into this novel, and it took me a while to figure out why. What it boils down to is that I felt like I was starting with the second book of a series and that I’d missed some kick-ass action in the first book. The story of Dred’s rise to power is given piecemeal throughout the book, but I think that seeing her establish that power base and grow as a person would have been a good story too. It felt like a complicated set of events, and it took place completely “off screen” before this novel even begins. I thought that the choice to start the story where it does felt kind of odd.
I also thought that the plot was as much about Jael as it was about Dred, and that initially kept me from really connecting with Dred. I said earlier that I wanted to see her grow as a person during her rise to power, but she does do some growing in this storyline too. I think that, for me, the problem was with the fact that Jael is a point of view character, and his sections take time away from readers getting to know Dred.
I was drawn more strongly to the minor characters, especially the ones who are closest to Dred. It’s interesting to see the loyalty these men display towards a female leader, and it’s also interesting to see how Dred knows that she has to project a certain image to remain in control of her people. Her right-hand men support her, but she also has to learn how to utilize them without handing over any power. My favorite of those characters is Einar, a huge warrior who is completely devoted to Dred, but not blinded by loyalty. He has a personality beyond just being Dred’s follower.
The novel picks up about halfway through when the action intensifies. The main characters get out of their own little area of Perdition and encounter other groups and other settings. It gives them the chance to move beyond the close-knit interactions that are set up during the earlier chapters. It also gives readers a sense of how big the ship really is, and how run-down and potentially dangerous. It’s pretty obvious that this novel is the set-up to an attempt to escape the ship in future books.
While I liked Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax series better, The Dred Chronicles shows some promise.Perdition has a setting with a lot of potential for action, some interesting characters, and a clearly defined plot. I think that as long as the author doesn’t let the romance aspects of the story completely overwhelm everything else, the series should pick up steam and be quite fun to read.