Audiobook Review: Tracer by Rob Boffard
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Series: Book 1 of Outer Earth
Publisher: Hachette Audio (June 28, 2016)
Length: 13 hrs and 17 mins
Narrators: Jeff Harding and Sarah Borges
Tracer is a novel that has been on my to-read list for a while, especially after author Rob Boffard wrote a fascinating and chilling guest post for The BiblioSanctum earlier this year. I had the ebook, but when I learned that the audiobook version would also be released alongside the print edition in the US, I decided to go ahead and give it a listen.
The first chapter opens with an introduction to Riley, a young woman working as a tracer on a space station. Tracers are like unofficial couriers who make the world go ‘round in such a confined environment. They deliver important packages from one point to another—climbing, leaping, and wall-running through the bowels and complex pathways of Outer Earth, an enormous station carrying the last remnants of humanity after Earth became uninhabitable. Riley prides herself on being one of the fastest and most reliable tracers; she knows the station like the back of her hand, including all the quickest possible routes, and most importantly, her patrons can always count on her to be discreet. She and her fellow tracers of the Devil Dancers are instructed to never ask questions about the packages they’re carrying, they don’t even want to know. This has made them an attractive service to a shadier subset of the clientele on Outer Earth. Assignments can’t all be as noble as transporting precious medical supplies or foodstuffs to those in need, after all.
Because of the nature of their work though, tracers often draw the attention of the station’s gangs. One day, Riley is on her way to deliver a package to Oren Darnell, Outer Earth’s most dangerous man, when she is suddenly attacked by a group of gang members. Riley manages to escape, but only because her pack was ripped in the scuffle, and her attackers took off in a panic after realizing what she had been transporting. In spite of herself, Riley could not help her curiosity. Even though all her instincts tell her not to, she takes a look for herself the mysterious item she was supposed to bring to Darnell. In doing so, she ends up setting off a chain of events that would propel the entire station and everyone on it towards certain disaster. Outer Earth is in danger, and time is quickly running out.
This was a very fast listen, because from the very first sentence, Boffard sets a very fast pace for the rest of the story. Tracer is an extremely action-oriented novel, running the full gamut of possible calamities to befall an old and rundown space station, from massive fires in the food production labs to a full-scale hostile takeover by a homicidal madman. It’s a pretty standard sci-fi thriller featuring some common genre tropes, but in spite of that there were still more than a few twists keeping things interesting. The plot also never slows down, throwing Riley and her allies into one dangerous situation after another.
While fun and very enjoyable, it’s clear that certain other aspects of the novel had to take a backseat in favor of all the explosive action. Characters were well done, but perhaps weren’t as fleshed out as they could be. Riley was the only one I really connected with, possibly because her chapters were the only ones told in first-person perspective, while the rest were told in third (come to think of it, that was an odd format choice that was neither here nor there). The book’s main villain was kind of flat; in general there was very little to the bad guys beyond the fact they were crazy and evil. As well, we get the cliché of the villain monologue at the end, making them feel very hammy besides. Riley’s love interest, a lab tech named Prakesh Kumar was a perspective character too, but he received less attention relative to the others and therefore it didn’t surprise me when their romance felt a little tacked on.
Still, this book was wildly entertaining, living up to the publisher description of “The Bourne Identity meets Gravity”, in tone if not in content. Tracer had the feel of a summer blockbuster—and that’s no bad thing. The story might not stick in your mind forever, but it’s an explosive popcorn experience and fun while you’re taking it in. Rock solid debut, great for when you need a super quick read that will keep your eyes glued to the pages (or earbuds firmly implanted in ears, in my case with the audiobook)!
Additional audiobook comments: The Tracer audiobook was narrated by Jeff Harding and Sarah Borges. Kudos for bringing in both a female and a male reader for this novel, since I don’t think it would have worked nearly as well with only one narrator. Both Harding and Borges performed very well, affecting great accents when required. My only complaint is that both readers’ voices sound a little too mature for some of the characters, namely Riley and Prakesh. In one instance, Riley informs someone that she is twenty years old, and I remember at the time feeling surprised because from Borges’ voice acting, I thought the character was older. Sometimes the chapter transitions are also very abrupt, almost like the narrators are cut off mid-sentence, but I would have to compare with a print or ebook edition to figure out whether this is an audio issue or just the way the prose is written. Overall though, I had a good time with this audiobook, and I’ll probably check out the rest of this trilogy in this format too. Would recommend.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Guest Post: “The Worst Things That Can Happen to You in Space” by Rob Boffard