Book Review: Adrift 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: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 5 of Donovan
Publisher: DAW (June 1, 2021)
Length: 512 pages
Author Information: Website
Every time I find out about a new book in this series, I simply cannot contain my glee. I do hope the W. Michael Gear keeps them coming, because I don’t think I could ever get tired of returning to Donovan, watching yet another group of know-it-all settlers think they can get the better of the planet only to be slapped down and shown just how wrong they were. Nope, it never gets old!
This time, Adrift takes us to the seas of Donovan, where the Maritime Unit has just set up their research facilities perched on the edge of a reef, hundreds of miles from the closest shore. Having survived the last ten years trapped aboard the Ashanti with a cult of cannibals, the members of this small team mostly made up of oceanographers and marine scientists are excited to have finally arrived on the planet and are eager to start studying its aquatic ecosystems. For many of them, Donovan represents more than just a new life—it’s also a fresh start for humanity. Vowing never to make the same mistakes as their ancestors back on Earth, this was their ultimate opportunity to put a lifetime’s worth of training and education to good use. They will respect the world’s creatures, study and understand them, and hopefully bring a wealth of knowledge back to their corporate sponsors and employers to aid in the colonizing efforts.
But this idealism is shattered almost immediately. Visiting from the mainland, Supervisor Kalico Aguila tries to warn the scientists that Donovan is not like Earth. Nothing can be inferred or assumed based on what they previously knew. Treat every living thing as a threat that’s out to kill you. Always carry a weapon and never let your guard down.
Unfortunately though, hubris proved to be Maritime Unit’s downfall. Even with Scientific Director Michaela Hailwood as their leader, the team has always been largely run by consensus, functioning more like a family than a workplace. Most of the members of this close-knit group are parents, their children having been born on the Ashanti, and this shared communal experience of raising their kids under those harsh conditions had brought them all even closer than before. Which is why, even at Michaela’s insistence, the unit could not be convinced to follow the supervisor’s directives, voting to go it alone even when threatened with a shutdown. Frustrated, Aguila decides to simply wash her hands of the matter, letting the scientists learn for themselves why the local saying “Welcome to Donovan” is less of a greeting and more a warning.
Obviously, for members of Maritime Unit, this spells very bad news. For readers though, what follows is a nerve-wracking, heart-pounding, gut-wrenching series of events, resulting in what might be the darkest, bloodiest Donovan novel to date. Considering all that we’ve been through already with the last four books, that’s definitely saying something! One of the reasons for this extra horror might be the fact that quite a few children are involved in this book, and if you find you that you are more sensitive to stories where bad or disturbing things happen to kids, then yeah, you might want to stay away. Just a warning.
As always though, Gear always keeps several plot threads going, and believe me, there’s much more happening out in the world of Donovan beyond the reef. In Adrift, we also get the chance to catch up with series protagonist Talina Perez, whose relationship with Dek Taglioni is certainly heading down some interesting roads. The former playboy and wealthy scion has made a complete transformation since his early days aboard Ashanti, and with quetzal TriNA now in his body, the changes just keep on coming.
Still, while the romance explored between Talina and Dek was compelling, their plotline was definitely not where my fascination yearned. I confess, as terrifyingly disastrous things were back at in the oceans, I just always wanted to get right back there to see how things were going. From deadly sea monsters to killer algae, poor Maritime Unit never catches a break. That’s what they get for disrespecting my girl Kalico Aguila! The no-nonsense, tough-as-nails supervisor is now officially my favorite character of the series, and I find I just love her more with every book.
But anyway, I could go on forever about how much I loved Adrift, how much I love the Donovan series if left to my own devices. This latest installment is proof that there is so much more of the planet to explore, and that author W. Michael Gear can still keep things new and fresh. If anything, these books just keep getting better and better, and I’m so glad that signs point to there being more to come.