Maarkean Ocaitchi is a man who cares about his family, his country, and the law. He’s a naval pilot who doesn’t think twice about his orders. He does have a younger sister, though, who finds herself caught up in some political trouble. So Maarkean does what any man would do – he becomes a smuggler to keep his family safe.
Only…Maarkean isn’t a man. He’s a Braz, one of the many species we are introduced to in this book. Braz look quite similar to humans (called Terrans now) except for a bone ridge that juts up on their foreheads and their three-toed feet. Braz and Terrans are what you might call the upper class in the planetary system, but other species aren’t so lucky. Up until now, that hasn’t concerned Maarkean much. He flies for the Alliance, the governing body of all planets. Maarkean’s world is turned upside down, however, when his younger sister Saracasi attends a political rally at her school that turns into a riot and labels her a traitor. Maarkean and Saracasi flee in his ship Cutty Sark and become illegal smugglers to pay their way.
Life on the lam isn’t ideal, but things get much worse when three ship thieves try to commandeer Cutty Sark for a mysterious boss and Saracasi is caught and sent to prison. Maarkean is forced to make an uneasy alliance with Zeric, one of the thieves, in order to free his sister. Along the way Maarkean must confront his own feelings about other species as well as a government that may not be as righteous and altruistic as he previously thought. What follows is the early stirrings of rebellion, born out of abuse and inequality.
One of the tricky things about an author creating a new world full of new and exciting species is describing all the things that are different from the world as we know it without making a break with the narrator’s voice. Lots of times the “newbie” tactic is used, and we see this strange world through the naive eyes of a character who is also seeing it all for the first time. Basta takes a chance by not going this route and instead dropping small but specific details each time we naturally encounter a new race. I found the information to be much less overwhelming this way and didn’t have to keep paging back to see which race he was referring to. This book is a quick read, thanks to these sort of streamlined details as well as the quick action. We don’t have to spend a long time waiting for something to happen – there’s not a lot of deliberation or talking of plans; we just get to business.
Basta’s world borrows a bit from both ‘Firefly’ and ‘Star Wars’, but still manages to create his own list of memorable characters. My personal favorites are Lahkaba, an esteemed member of the Kowwok, a furry species that frequently hugs at emotional and, perhaps, inappropriate times; and the married duo of Gamaly and Gu’od, who in my imagination were a sort of alien ninja fighting team. While perhaps not as witty as ‘Serenity’ (and really, what is?), Basta managed to get quite a few laughs in. Zeric is considered a bit of a ladies’ man but occasionally has trouble deciphering if someone is male or female. And for all the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ fans, this witty play: “‘Frac,’ Maarkean said, letting out the Braz’s name in such a way as to make it sound like a curse.”
Aristeia is an Ancient Greek term used to describe a fighter’s best moment in battle, usually resulting in the annihilation of the enemy. Maarkean’s aristeia can be interpreted as a few different moments. The attempted jailbreak of his sister is certainly a life-changing moment, but I believe it also refers to the battle he fights internally as well. Maarkean changes from a soldier with unwavering faith in his government to a reluctant rebel who realizes that not everyone is who they originally claim to be. Some are much worse, but he’s lucky to find many strangers that are even more trustworthy than he expects.
I would recommend ‘Aristeia: Revolutionary Right’, especially for fans of ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Firefly’. It’s in very much the same vein. The only restrictions I would mention are there’s a minor amount of swearing and there’s mention of sex, though not explicit. Overall a fun read and a nice way to pass the time!