Review by C.J. Bunce
Both were pulled from Special Forces units. Dakota Prentiss is an ex-Ranger. She’s tough, rough, crude, and been through it all. Then new worker Matt Salem is brought onto her security team. He’s ex-Navy SEAL and she can’t help falling for him, something she’s never quite had time for with her lifetime committed to always fulfilling the mission, and now she’s bound herself for life to a private corporation where you keep secrets or you die. In Nat Cassidy’s novelization of Mac Rogers’ dramatic podcast series, Steal the Stars, we get a first person account of bad choices that only get worse from Dakota aka “Dak” in a science fiction noir style that takes place on an Earth where corporations have gained far too much power and the CEO of one giant company has the power over life and death.
And it’s also a heist story. Dak determines the only way out of the mess she has gotten into by violating company fraternization policy with Matt is to steal the very thing her team is guarding–a UFO that crashed a decade ago and the alien inside that may or may not be dead–and sell these secrets to China. Dak is every bit the tough and in-charge leader like Hannah-John Kamen’s Dutch in the Syfy series Killjoys, including her ability for falling for the next guy who joins her team. The company follows rigorous protocols in their own variation on Warehouse 13 to maintain the safety of the UFO and its harp-shaped power drive, which they soon learn has power so great whoever controls it could control everything. The alien inside, called Moss for its slowly diminishing moss-like covering, simply stares off into nothing as if dead. But why does he still seem to have body heat?
Another entry from The X-Files? Sure. It’s also heavily influenced by other alien arrival stories, especially the most recent Oscar-winning film about first contact, 2016’s Arrival, with its focus on the process and set-up for quarantining such a discovery. Also a mash-up of They Live and Bonnie and Clyde and even Philip K. Dick’s short story “Paycheck,” Steal the Stars pulls bits and pieces of sci-fi from all angles to create a compelling read that will keep you onboard for all of its 416 pages.
Most of the conversational dialogue between characters is good, but Dak’s focus on her passion for young new guy Matt to the exclusion of her career, the associates and co-workers she has grown to trust, and her pre-occupation with sex all take over the novel and may be off-putting to some readers. Why are all of her thoughts about a guy? Dak walks the line between ideal badass heroine and a male fantasy of a badass heroine. But the punchy dialogue and believable blend of military and corporate setting make it easy to understand why the podcast the novel is based on was a success.
Nice twists, an interesting setting, and its ability to draw from several genre tropes will make Steal the Stars a fun read for sci-fi readers.
Steal the Stars will be released Tuesday, November 7, 2017, from Tor Books. Pre-order a copy now here at Amazon.