In the distant future, everything runs on molasses, rendering sugar cane the lifeblood of human civilization. Corporate interests control the starways, staffed by an indentured workforce, while the Union takes every opportunity to convince said workforce to breach their contracts and jump ship. Out at the edge of settled space, Union recruiter Padma Mehta is particularly eager to add new Breaches to her headcount—thirty-three more recruits and she’ll get a bonus that will allow her to buy her favorite rum refinery and retire. Of course, it’s never that easy. Santee is a backwater, barely kept afloat by the supply of molasses sent up the elevator, so when Padma catches wind of forty potential Breaches she jumps at the opportunity…right out of the frying pan and into the fire. Now she’s dodging corporate hit squads, running from the police, and wading through sewage in an attempt to save the planet from a crop-killing plague…and the corporate response that would doom every soul on Santee to a fiery death.
Windswept is definitely a roller coaster of a novel, with a breakneck pace that refuses to slow down and let you think. This serves the novel well, especially as it helps gloss over the odd plot hole or uncharacteristically foolish action a given character might take in service to the plot. (Notably, a character picks up a fallen enemy’s gun, removes the magazine and pockets it, then throws the gun itself away. Why? Because the upcoming fight scene wouldn’t be as interesting if she were armed, but that magazine is going to be essential to solving a problem in the near future…The character does at least have the grace to question why she discarded the pistol, chalking it up to sleep deprivation clouding her judgement. There’s also a jarring moment where a character announces that she’s got to be at work in fifteen minutes, then a page later reflects on the fact that she’s going to be able to kick back and relax the rest of the night.) There’s not a lot of such gloss needed, but then it may have worked and I missed some examples. On the whole, though, the book was a very fun thrill ride through a future that looks like no other I’ve ever seen. A worthy debut, and I shall watch for future works from Mr. Rakunas.
CONTENT: R-rated profanity, prevalent but not gratuitous. Strong violence. Moderately explicit sexual content.