Hal Cullen is ex-military but more than that, he is a ‘vat’ soldier. The result of genetic manipulation, vat soldiers are bred specifically to become adrenaline-fuelled hyper-efficient, disposable killing machines.
After seven years of service, vat soldiers become unstable, so Hal and his natural born (‘nat’) captain, Ty, are discharged and decide to cruise the galaxy’s edge aboard the Lorshad, a salvage ship collecting the spoils of alien wars past. Having delivered their most recent haul, Hal and Ty find themselves coming to the aid of Vivi, a ‘tecker’ fresh from the galaxy’s centre who has fallen victim to a Taken-esque date-rape/abduction attempt.
Having been rescued and healed, Vivi decides to join the Lorshad for their next job to collect a mysterious sphere… which unfortunately unleashes an alien presence that contains a power that threatens to destroy the galaxy and rewrite history.
The Rush’s Edge sits very comfortably in the space opera genre. Its heroes, themes and action have a classic, nostalgic, pulpy feel. Unfortunately, this brings with it an outdated and potentially dangerous romanticism of chivalry that in this modern age diminishes the agency of the female characters.
Hal is our noble savage; a brute with a heart whose transgressions we forgive because he’s the hero of the piece. But when Vivi appears on the scene having been rescued from an abusive relationship, she very quickly falls for her saviour, enraptured by another man with violence in his heart. The romance itself is not uncomfortable but when framed with Vivi’s backstory, alarm bells should be ringing.
Author Ginger Smith’s premise of government-controlled, genetically engineered super soldiers replete with a time clock and an overly aggressive personality is a grand one. However, the novel’s deeper themes are merely touched upon and its cookie-cutter characters detract from what could be a more inventive and challenging story.
The Rush’s Edge is a fine example of the fun you can have with the dynamic excitement of space operas. Space wars, romance and governmental corruption are enjoyably wrapped up in a tight standalone (if slightly throw-away) story.
The Rush’s Edge by Ginger Smith is out now.