I have a confession to make: I judged a book by its cover.
Specifically, I judged this one by its cover. Look how cool it is! A tower of skulls? A spaceship background? How could I not grab this book and flip through its pages?
This science fiction novel, the first of the Donovan trilogy, takes place on a remote planet called Donovan where The Corporation sent a mining colony for rare materials. The Corporation recruits both the poor and the criminal to populate this colony with promises of forgiveness, wealth, and land. However, the land is far more dangerous than anyone could have imagined.
The story begins with Talina Perez, a strong woman who keeps the peace both in town and in the outskirts, where she fights the terrifying native creatures from the simple humans living in Donovan. The people have settled into a triumvirate with libertarian values. They believe the Corporation has abandoned them after going many years without a supply ship from the main system. So, the people all carry an attitude similar to the Wild West. Images from “Mad Max” or “Firefly” wouldn’t be off the mark here as these people have futuristic equipment mixed with minimal resources. They’re all fighting for their spot of land and to live just one more day.
The reader is then taken on board the Turalon where a Corporate board member, Kalico Aguila, is heading to Donovan to find out why the Corporation lost contact with the colony. She has low expectations for the trip and sees this merely as a step to climbing the Corporate ladder. We also meet two other characters who will provide intriguing POVs that move the plot along.
There are multiple POVs throughout the story, fleshing out the growing tensions between the Donovan colonists and the Corporation who thinks they should take over. Just as both sides hit a breaking point, a ship comes onto the radar. This ship, called Freelander, is a missing supply ship that the Donovanians claim left the planet, but the Corporation said they lost. They discover that the Freelander is ghost ship. The mystery and bones in their hull lead to a larger question all the characters have to answer in their own way before night comes.
What propels this story forward is the incredible cast W. Michael Gear puts together on this planet. From the law keepers to the rule breakers, each one has a story that will intrigue you so much you won’t want to leave them. Gear does a great job balancing out each character so you know who is talking without needing to see their name written down. I appreciated his ability to limit backstories so the characters can show you who they are without you getting bogged down in their childhood. While doing all this, he builds up the tension well and moves the plot along at an excellent pace.
You’ll also find it hard not to be enamored with Donovan and the ships in orbit. Gear sketches out a beautiful but exciting world where you shouldn’t trust the wildlife, but feel compelled to stay. The societal structure also gives you a sense of place, allowing you to see how a world like this could exist.
I think Outpost is perfect for those looking for a fun adventure in a planet far away with familiar themes of colonization, corporate oversight, and second chances. If you liked stories like Mad Max or Firefly, I think you’ll find a home in this colony too.
5 out of 5 ghost ships