One part political discourse, one part romantic adventure, and one part… something else entirely, Sarah Hoyt’s A Few Good Men is a continuation novel set in her Darkship universe that is the first in a series all its own.
Lucius Dante Maximilian Keeva was a monster, kept hidden away in the Good Men’s undersea prison of Never-Never, forever being punished in his mind for murdering his best friend. Locked away and forgotten, it seemed, until one day when is he broken out of prison. But instead of being the monster he believed himself to be, however, Lucius listens to the voice in his head — his long-dead friend Ben — and sets about helping the poor bastards on the lower levels out of the prison before Never-Never flooded.
Lucius manages to help the others escape and fights his way out of Never-Never, flies off away from his old home (the Olympus seacity) and finds himself in one of the other massive seacities of the world, the Liberte seacity. Unfortunately for Lucius, he has not really seen, talked to or even been touched by another human being in fourteen years, and the sudden sensory onslaught of freedom in Liberte almost causes him to curl up in a ball and quit. Fortunately, the voice in his head (Ben) is as stubborn as he, and forces him to go into the city and try to find a way to survive.
Once he overcomes his fears, he catches up on the news of the day — and discovers that his father is dead and his younger brother, who had become the next Good Man, had just been found in his home, brutally murdered. Lucius, knowing that Ben’s family would be subjugated to horrors of a hereditary system and would not have the same security if a new Good Man took over the Keeva’s seacity of Olympus, decides to claim his inheritance.
The first half of the book is splendidly told, with the prodigal son/convicted murderer returning home to claim his family’s fortune and the secrets and lies that he had been fed throughout his entire life being laid bare before. He realizes that Ben’s younger brother, Nat, is in the same peculiar position that Ben had been in many years before with his dead brother Max and that his own story about what has happened in the Keeva household — indeed, with all of the Good Men across the globe — is almost unbelievable. The author teases the reader with the big secret, the big reveal that the reader already knows about if they had read Darkship Thieves (reviewed here) or Darkship Renegades (reviewed here), a slow and almost torturous tease that goes on for almost too long. Once the big reveal is made, though, the book drastically slows down.
Part of the problem is Lucius’ inner dialogue. Since the book is told in a first person POV, this is okay in the beginning, with the narration being fairly thorough and fast-paced. As the book goes on, however, Lucius’ dialogue seems to be replaced more with his growing ideology and less with the actual telling of the story, including points of purposeful “But that’s not my story to tell” comments interspersed. There is a lot less “show” here than the first half of the book, and it does detract from points that could have been especially telling with the characterization of Lucius. It also does a number on the bond between reader and character, since a large part of the second half is political discourse (which is fine, mostly… I enjoyed it, but I don’t know if it is for everyone).
However, the portrayal of Lucius’ guilt about surviving (and murdering his best friend) is excellently done, with the pangs and remorse any survivor has painted beautifully and tragically on the page. The author does a tremendous job and forcing the reader to not only see that pain, but experience it as well, which is something not many try to do these days. An amazing venture here, with the author almost daring the reader to keep going, to see what the hero sees, to feel the pain and anguish of life… not just to use the book as an escape from reality, but as a window in to a reality that is potentially on our doorstep.
A pretty good book from Ms Hoyt, and the promise of a solid series all around. If you liked Darkship Renegades, you will definitely enjoy A Few Good Men.
—Reviewed by Jason