Book Review: Abandoned by W. Michael Gear
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 2 of Donovan Trilogy
Publisher: DAW (November 27, 2018)
Length: 448 pages
Author Information: Website
Talk about being late to the party. W. Michael Gear has been a name in science fiction for a while, though I only read him for the first time a few weeks ago with Outpost, the first book in his Donovan trilogy that took me completely by surprise. By the time I finished, I already had the sequel in hand and ready to go, so for once, I wasted no time in diving in.
Abandoned takes readers back to Donovan, a colony planet that humans have been trying to tame for the last thirty years. Despite the settlers’ best efforts, Donovan’s wildlife has continued to hold back any real development. Over time, the colonists have come to accept the dangers and learned to adapt to the planet’s harsh environment. But now, a Corporation ship has arrived to take stock of the situation, making the people of Donovan nervous, worried that their way of life is now being threatened. When we last left things in Outpost, things were in a state of flux, with high tensions between the new arrivals and the original Donovanians. And space travel being as risky as it is right now, it’s not even certain that the Corporation ship will be able to make the return trip home to the solar system.
Some familiar faces return, while some new characters are also introduced. Representing the planet’s hub of Port Authority is Security Officer Talina Perez, the de facto leader of the Donovan colonists. Keeping the peace in her town has gotten a little more difficult since the new Corporation settlement has been established nearby in the south. Leading them is Supervisor Kalico Aguila, a rising star in the Corporation, until she made what she figured was the biggest mistake of her life by asking to head this mission to Donovan. Her head of security is now dead, forcing her to rely on the hotheaded and volatile Lieutenant Deb Spiro instead, whose aggressive way of doing things is stirring no small amount of trouble with the people of Port Authority. Resident troublemaker Dan Wirth is back as well, taking advantage of the Donovanian’s libertarian ideology to set up a casino and brothel, fleecing the naïve colonists for everything they have. A ruthless killer, he’s also found that it’s much easier to get away with murder on a planet like Donovan.
As if all this excitement wasn’t enough, this sequel also shines a light on a third faction—the people of the wild. The first book touched upon them briefly, but Abandoned finally gives us a chance to see how these rogue settlers really lived. A new perspective character enters the scene in the form of Mark Talbot, a Marine who didn’t really mean to desert, but it seemed Donovan had other plans for him. Following the crash of his ship and death of his companions, Mark stumbles upon a group of hardy women and their children who have been maintaining their own secret farm settlement in the wilderness. Rebecca, Su and Dya harbor strong animosities towards Port Authority and want nothing to do with the other colonists and the Corporation. They heal Mark and take him in, and before long, he becomes a part of their family.
If there is one message that this book sends, it is that Donovan changes people. Talina, a long-time local, was one of the first to figure this out and accept that there’s no set of rules to follow when it comes to surviving on this planet. Those who come trying to conquer it with rigidity and order are often the first to die. This is a fate that nearly befalls Kalico Aguila, before she was forced to admit she’s in way over her head. Of all the characters in this novel, Mark Talbot was probably the most affected by Donovan, followed next by Aguila. Of course, she wouldn’t be a Corporation supervisor if she didn’t involve herself in some manipulation and scheming, but overall, I was glad she didn’t turn out to be as horrible as once thought.
But then, of course, there are the people who don’t change, but simply get better at hiding their true colors. This is Dan Wirth in a nutshell, though his part was relatively lowkey in this installment, to my slight disappointment (yes, I actually wanted to see him cause more trouble!) The role of main villain was instead hoisted upon Lieutenant Spiro, and boy, was she a piece of work who quickly became the most hated person in the series.
In a way though, Gear’s handling of the characters and the fact they are always shifting, evolving is why I am enjoying these books so much; this is very much a human story involving the triumph of the will to survive, despite the trying circumstances. You gotta love how much the Donovanian colonists take pride in their home, even though it has killed so many of them. Amazingly too, the planet itself feels like a character in its own right, taking on its own life and personality. Donovan’s strange fauna and flora are key to this perception, the way the story describes them as constantly pushing back attempts to domesticate it. And speaking of which, this interaction between Donovan and the human settlers also gets a bit of attention, revealing some of its inner workings which are truly alien in its nature. We get a lot more information about the lizard-like creatures called quetzals, which may yet play a larger role in the understanding of the planet.
But most notably, this volume did not really touch upon the subject of the ghost ship that suddenly appeared back in orbit (which felt like a glaring oversight, considering the big deal that was made of it back in the first book), nor did it go into the mystery of why more and more ships were getting lost in space, though I suppose the author needs to save at least a few aces up his sleeve for the big finale.
All in all, I have to say Abandoned was a sequel that does what sequels generally do—that is, continue the threads established by the previous book while adding some more to expand the world-building and further build upon the plot. On the whole, the novel accomplished this in all the right ways, and I couldn’t be happier with the direction of this trilogy.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Outpost (Book 1)